A Visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum
by Mary Perdue
Immediately adjacent to the Churchill Downs track entrance on Central Avenue in Louisville is the Kentucky Derby Museum, a must for any racing fan. The museum is open even on non-race days and offers a comprehensive and entertaining view of thoroughbred racing, with a special emphasis on the history and splendor of the Derby.
A good way to begin your tour is “The Greatest Race” immersive experience, shown every hour in a 360-degree, 4K high-resolution theater. Then you can work your way through two floors of exhibits which explore each stage of a thoroughbred’s life from foaling to the first Saturday in May.
Interesting Derby items on display during a visit the day after this year’s race include:
The original condition book for the 1885 Derby, won by Joe Cotton. It’s amazing to think that the race had already been run eleven times by then.
A display of Kentucky Derby hats, including one made entirely of hair
A photo of Bob Baffert who trained back-to-back Derby winners Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) taken by renowned racing photographer Tony Leonard
One of the more intriguing Derby related exhibits is a “time machine” where visitors can replay videos of each year’s race, going all the way back to 1930, when Gallant Fox won and foundation sire Alcibiades finished tenth.
The museum includes many other interesting non-Derby items, including:
*An American Pharoah exhibit, featuring his bridle from his impressive 2-year-old victory in the 2014 Del Mar Futurity, as well as his 2015 Breeders Cup Classic winning saddle on loan from jockey Victor Espinoza
*1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat’s racing silks and saddle cloth are also on display:
If you’re an avid thoroughbred racing fan, be prepared to spend several hours in the museum because once you’re in there, it’s hard to pull yourself away.
Don’t forget to stop at the museum gift shop for all kinds of thorughbred collectibles and souvenirs. You can even have lunch at the Derby Café.
The museum also offers guided tours of Churchill Downs’ backside and barn areas.
Leaving through the gift shop, don’t miss the memorial gravesite of Eight Belles, second to Big Brown in the 2008 Derby, a poignant reminder of the beauty and fragility of our sport.
If you go: Kentucky Derby Museum, 704 Central Ave., Louisville, KY 40208, Ph: 502-637-1111 www.derbymuseum.org.