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Kentucky Derby

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The present-day Kentucky Derby trophy was designed by George Lewis Graff for Lemon & Son Jewelers of Louisville, with the initial presentation made to Black Gold's owner, Mrs. Rosa M. Hoots, on May 17, 1924. The cup, with horse and rider atop, is 22 inches tall and weighs 56 ounces, excluding its marble base. The horse and rider, the horseshoe-shaped handles, and other decorations are 18-karat gold; the body of the cup is 14-karat gold. The value, listed 60 years ago at $5,000, has been inflated to as high as $60,000 over the years. To mark the milestone 125th Kentucky Derby that was run on May 1, 1999, the winner's trophy was enhanced by a spectacular array of diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Only twice before has the trophy been changed to honor notable anniversaries: the 75th Derby in 1949 and the 100th Derby in 1974.

More importantly, to the superstitious, the prestigious trophy will also incorporate a design modification based on a long-standing racing superstition. Churchill Downs officials have decided to defer to racing lore and change the direction of the decorative horseshoe displayed on the body of the 14-karat gold trophy. The horseshoe has pointed downward on each of the past 74 Kentucky Derby trophies, but the trophy for Derby 125 will carry a horseshoe that is turned 180 degrees so that its ends point up. Racing superstition decrees that if the horseshoe is turned down all the luck will run out.

Derby history is unclear if a trophy was presented to owner Hal Price McGrath after his Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. Trophy presentations were made sporadically in subsequent Derbys until the official Kentucky Derby winner's trophy was presented at the race's 50th renewal in 1924.

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