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Special trophies were made for the 75th Kentucky Derby in 1949, the 100th Derby in 1974, and the 125th Derby in 1999 which had diamonds added to the horse shoe and rubies and emeralds in the rose blanket on the horse on top. Until 1999, the horse shoe on the trophy was pointing down, which popular superstition claims lets the luck run out. Because of this belief, Churchill Downs officials finally decided to change the direction of the horse shoe so the tips point up to keep the luck in and it has remained that way since.
The 14-karat gold trophy presented to the winning owner of the Kentucky Derby was designed by artist George L. Graff. The trophy was originally made by Louisville, Kentucky, jewellery store Lemon & Son. Since 1975, the trophy has been crafted by New England Sterling in Massachusetts which was purchased in 2015 by Richline, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Work on the trophy usually starts in the previous fall and takes four to five months to complete, usually finishing sometime in April, with work done by a team of artisans for a total of about 2000 man-hours. The smaller silver replicas for the trainer and jockey and the Kentucky Oaks trophies are also made at the same time.
The Kentucky Derby trophy is an urn that is 22 inches tall and weighs 65 ounces, which does not include the jade base. The urn is topped by an 14-karat gold horse and rider and has handles that are horseshoe shaped wreaths with an 18-karat horseshoe on the front. The entire trophy is made by hand with the exception of the horse and rider that are cast from a mold.
There isnt an exact value for the trophy, although they set it at about $90,000 in 2006. In 2012 the 1991 trophy went up for auction with the final price undisclosed, but the pre-auction value estimate was set at $150,000. Doing a quick calculation based on the current price of gold in October 2015, sets the value in gold content alone at around $155,000. I am sure that anyone who wins it would consider it priceless regardless of the material value.
It is believed that the Kentucky Derby trophy is the only solid gold trophy to be awarded annually to the winner of a major American sporting event. The trophy is delivered to Churchill Downs in April and is kept in the Kentucky Derby Museum until Derby day. Then it is taken out to the infield Kentucky Derby winner's circle where it is displayed until after the race when it is presented to the winner. The trophy is taken back after the race to be engraved, then presented to the winning connections again on Stephen Foster Handicap day in June in a special ceremony.
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