Maker’s Mark Honors American Pharoah, Donates $100,000 to Derby Museum

I love the Kentucky Derby.

I’ve attended as a photojournalist, hunkering down on the rail and in the mud, clicking the shutter not really knowing if I have the “shot.” On the track, the horses are so fast. (See a few of my 2008 shots.)

I’ve attended as a fan, wiping my wet seat, smoking cigars and twisting the cap off the flask for a nice pull of bourbon. In the seats, I’ve pioneered many betting strategies that place more emphasis in speed of the last three races than jockeys or sires. I had a great three-year stretch, where I picked the winning horse every year. My last winning pick was in 2013, so I’m due for a rebound this year.

Now, I attend as the Kentucky Derby Museum’s “Bourbon Authority,” a fancy title that means bourbon ambassador. You have to have a special ticket to get into my bourbon bar, and it’s my fantasy come true: All I do is talk about bourbon to people dressed up.

You’d be amazed how many people will miss a race just to hear my opinion on bourbon. It’s truly my Super Bowl as a professional taster. Unfortunately, these tickets sell before they’re even available, and I cannot offer these.

I can, however, offer a memorable Derby experience.

American Pharoah won the 2015 Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby Museum is honoring the horse May 1. Photo credit: Associated Press via the Kentucky Derby Museum
American Pharoah won the 2015 Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby Museum is honoring the horse May 1. Photo credit: Kentucky Derby Museum

At the Kentucky Derby Museum May 1, we’re opening the American Pharoah exhibit to honor the Triple Crown winner from last year. He’s the first in my lifetime.

Maker’s Mark also created a special bottling honoring the horse, and the Kentucky Derby Museum will be selling around 1,000 bottles. You can purchase an $89 voucher starting at 8 a.m. May 1, but are limited to two bottles. After purchasing the voucher, pick up starts at 1 p.m.

Maker’s Mark will donate $100,000 to the non-profit museum. Maker’s Mark has a long tradition of supporting horse racing, selling its first case at Keeneland in 1958 and sponsor of the Maker’s 46 Mile. Former Maker’s Mark president Bill Samuels Jr. also once served as the chairman of the Kentucky Derby Museum. “We’re honored to help grow the sport we love, while also commemorating one of the most remarkable achievements in sports history,” said Rob Samuels, the chief operating officer of Maker’s Mark.

Maker's Mark created this limited edition bottle to honor American Pharoah, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. The Kentucky Derby Museum will have 1,000 available in the gift shop.
Maker’s Mark created this limited edition bottle to honor American Pharoah, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. The Kentucky Derby Museum will have 1,000 available in the gift shop.

In addition to the cool bottle, I’ll be hosting a rare bourbon-tasting bar and signing books with Bill Doolittle, author of The Kentucky Derby; Eliza McGraw, author of Here Comes Exterminator; Jason Neff, son of late author Myles Neff, who wrote Stylin’: The Reviving the Art of Race Riding; Bob Fortus & Gary West, authors of Ride to Win : An Inside Look at the Jockey’s Craft, Kevin Gibson, author of 100 Things to Do in Louisville Before You Die; Jack Van Ber, author of Jack: From Grit To Glory- A Lifetime of Mentoring, Dedication and Perseverance; and Barry Irwin, author of Derby Innovator: The Making of Animal Kingdom.

For more information on Fan Fest Day, visit DerbyMuseum.org.

Please join me in celebrating an amazing horse and take home a piece of history.

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