Kentucky Derby Museum
A desciption of the attractions and exhibits that are available at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is a not-for-profit organization that originally opened April 28, 1985. It receives much of its funding through a grant from the J. Graham Brown Foundation. The museum was completely renovated in the spring of 2000 and showcases many displays that exemplify the pride and tradition of the Kentucky Derby and Thoroughbred racing. Three floors of exhibits give visitors an up close look at the Thoroughbred racing industry as well as the "greatest two minutes in sports" - The Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby is held each first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a mile and a quarter Grade I stakes race for 3-year-old fillies and colts. The first race was held on May 17, 1875 and since it has been run every year since then, it is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States. The Kentucky Derby was modeled after the Epsom Derby that has been run in England since 1780. It is considered the first race or jewel in the Triple Crown Championship series of three races for 3-year-old fillies and colts. The Preakness Stakes is run in Maryland two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks after that race, the Belmont Stakes is run in New York. There have only been eleven horses to compete and win all three of these races in the same year. The most famous racehorse to accomplish this fete was Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973. Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 and no horse since him has been able to win all three races. Several have won two out of three but the Triple Crown has eluded them all for the past two decades and beyond.
As guests enter the museum, they may access the exhibits on the first floor by exiting the lobby through a starting gate that faces a 10-foot square screen with rear projection images of the start of the Kentucky Derby from a head on perspective. The surrounding exhibits include displays on the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Kentucky Oaks, Mint Juleps, Kentucky Derby Hats, and more. A replica of the Winner's Circle contains a likeness of the current Kentucky Derby winning horse and jockey complete with a Garland of Roses. Various trophies, silver cups, bowls, pitchers and plates and other awards are in trophy cases that flank the Winner's Circle. The Warner L Jones, Jr. Time Machine allows Kentucky Derby fans to hear and view various races dating back to 1918. The first color film of a Kentucky Derby was made in 1968.
A section devoted to Horses, their Owners, and their Trainers includes exhibits that display the physical power of a Thoroughbred, the life of a Thoroughbred from birth through training, and a three-dimensional farm. Another section is devoted to the jockeys and Backside Crew. It features exhibits like a jockey room, saddles, jockey scales and various riding equipment. A photographic promenade highlights significant Kentucky Derby Jockeys and illustrates the ethnic diversity of past and present day jockeys. Outside in the Courtyard, retired Thoroughbred racehorse No More Interest and his companion, a miniature horse named Winton, reside together.
The Great Hall features a Kentucky Derby Time Line that highlights the results of each Kentucky Derby and provides local and national events for each year as well. The interior of the Great Hall is where visitors may view "The Greatest Race", which is a high definition video projection on a 360-degree screen. This unique production is the only one of its kind in the world at this time and was produced by Donna Lawrence Productions.
The museum's second floor showcases temporary exhibits featuring the official Derby artists along with interpretive historical exhibits. These exhibits are usually changed every two to six months. The Kentucky Derby Hall of Champions highlights the "Cream of the Crop" with regard to owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys who have won at least three Kentucky Derby Races. Triple Crown winners are also included. Special attention was given to Isaac Murphy, who is considered to by one of the greatest jockeys of all time. He and other African-Americans who played an important role in the early days of the Kentucky Derby and Thoroughbred racing are also featured in a video display. Visitors may sit on a life-size model of a horse and see what it is like to be a jockey sitting in the starting gate as well.
The Louisville Clock, or Derby Clock, is displayed along with a video from when the clock was in operation during the 1970's. At that time the clock figures would race around the sculpture each day at noon. Some of the figures include George Rogers Clark, Thomas Jefferson, King Louis XVI, Daniel Boone and the Belle of Louisville. There is an interactive display that allows visitors to use magnetic images of multicolored horses, jockeys and trophies to create their own scenes. Another interactive exhibit teaches visitors how to handicap horses, read a racing program, and place a bet with a computer-video game.
The lower level of the museum has changing exhibits to coincide with the various educational programs that are offered by the Museum. A research library with extensive archives and educational programs are available for all ages. Renovations and expansion made room for a gift shop and the Derby Café. Guides offer walking tours of Churchill Downs and the Museum's paddock area in suitable weather. The museum is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday and Noon-5:00pm on Sundays year-round except for Kentucky Oaks Day, Kentucky Derby Day, Breeders' Cup Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Museum meets ADA accessibility standards and is available for daytime and evening rentals. Memberships packages and group rates are available.
The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at 704 Central Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky 40208. It is adjacent to Churchill Downs at Gate #1.