Kentucky Derby Museum a Treasure for Louisville Visitors

Animal Kingdom - Derby MuseumBy ART PARKER


The Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, provides a great experience for all who visit. It’s a great stop for tourists while in Louisville. Naturally it provides an introduction and fundamental learning experience to those who know little or nothing about the wonderful sport of horse racing.

But what about those with ties to the sport or have spent time at the track? Let me explain it this way. The first time I went to the Derby Museum was 22 years ago. I had been a horse player, and a good one, for about 9 years. When I walked into the Derby Museum I thought I knew everything about horse racing. It didn’t take long for me realize that not only did I know little about the Kentucky Derby itself, I did not know near as much about the sport as I thought.

The Kentucky Derby museum makes the horse player whole. If you ever go to the museum, you will know what I mean. From horseshoes to bridles, from bizarre women’s hats to the starting gate, everything is there. You learn what you did not know and you wonder how anyone could keep from falling in love with horse racing.

What the Derby Museum does for the horse player is simple. You become “bonded” with the great sport. You feel that you are a part of it and not just another guy walking to the windows to bet the daily double. When you watch “The Greatest Race” your heart tells you to never roam too far from the track, and, never miss the Derby.

“The Greatest Race” employs high-definition film technology to bring the Derby story alive. It is the first 360-degree high-definition presentation in the world and it is annually updated in June, capturing the most recent Kentucky Derby victory. And while the film will be the big event of your visit, there are many other big deals within the cool confines of the building off Central Avenue.

This past year the Museum opened the Shoemaker exhibit. Complete in every way, the Derby Museum brings to you the career of Bill Shoemaker, the most legendary jockey of them all. The Shoemaker exhibit is just another way the museum whets your appetite for racing history.

A few weeks ago I made paid another visit to the museum. I believe it was my eleventh time. I still get excited like a kid in a candy store. I still watch replays of the great derbies of the past. I still look at horseshoes and examine every detail of the starting gate on exhibit. And when I leave, my bond with this great sport is ironclad.

If you have not been to the Kentucky Derby Museum you must go, especially if you are a horse player or racing enthusiast. And when you leave I promise that you will feel the bond with thoroughbred racing, and your heart will never let you roam far from the game.

– Art Parker is a frequent contributor to A Game of Skill and is the author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns.”

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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