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'Mint Condition' | 1991 Derby owner's trophy is on the auction block

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The 1991 Derby owner's trophy is up for auction, a rare chance to own a piece of Kentucky Derby history. 


Lelands Auctions started accepting bids for the trophy presented to the owner of Strike the Gold on Feb. 25, with bidding set to end March 16. The minimum bid is $25,000. According to Lelands' website, fewer than five owner's trophies have ever come up for sale at public auctions.

 

Most recently, the trophy presented to the owner of Spend a Buck in 1985 fetched a record price of $187,521 when it went up for sale in 2015. 


In previous WDRB stories about the ornate design of the trophy, Chris Goodlett, director of curatorial and educational events at the Kentucky Derby Museum, shared some of its history. 


"This trophy is one of the greatest traditions of the Kentucky Derby," he said. "We have had a trophy of this design ever since 1924 when Matt Winn first commissioned Louisville jeweler Lemon and Sons to design this trophy."


Goodlett said the design has remained essentially unchanged "with the exception of the horseshoe on the front. Until 1999 it was tines down. Now, it's tines up. Horsemen's lore says horseshoe tines down makes the luck run out.


"This is the only solid gold sporting trophy that we know of for a sporting event in the United States."


The trophy is presented to the owner of the winning horse in the Winner's Circle after the race, and the jockey, trainer and breeder receive smaller sterling silver replicas. 

The 1991 trophy's 14K gold cup and lid weigh a combined 67 ounces, which equals 39.195 ounces of fine-gold content, according to Lelands.


"Given the current price of gold ($2,039 as of Feb. 21, 2024), the gold value alone for the trophy is approximately $79,918," he said.



Pictured: this image provided by Lelands Auctions shows the lid of the solid gold Derby trophy that was presented to the owner of Strike the Gold after the 1991 Kentucky Derby. (Lelands Auctions)


The trophy has three sections: the lid, the cup and the base. The cup is hand-hammered in 14K gold with an engraving on the upside-down horseshoe that reads: "One Hundred Seventeenth Kentucky Derby - $500,000.00 Added - 1 1/4 Miles -  Churchill Downs Louisville - May 4, 1991 - Won By Strike The Gold."


The underside of the base, which is made from solid jade, is stamped "Lemon & Son Louisville KY. 14K." 



Pictured: this image provided by Lelands Auctions shows the lid of the solid gold Derby trophy that was presented to the owner of Strike the Gold after the 1991 Kentucky Derby. (Lelands Auctions)


It is the original trophy presented to the ownership group at Churchill Downs after the race, and is in "mint condition," according to Lelands. 

The 150th running of The Kentucky Derby happens May 4. WDRB will have coverage from the track beginning at 5 a.m. 

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