Rare Kentucky Derby trophy to be auctioned

Carolyn Kelly Art

Skinner, Inc. announced this week that on June 7 it will auction a rare Kentucky Derby winner’s trophy and commemorative mint julip cup (estimate $60,000-80,000), previously believed to have been lost. Both pieces, made from 14 karat gold, were presented to Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetics heiress, whose horse, Jet Pilot, won the prestigious race in 1947. The race, then it its 73rd year, was jockey Eric Guerin’s first time at the Derby, and he beat the favored Phalanx in the first photo-finish in Kentucky Derby history.

American specialist at Skinner Chris Barber says, “When it comes to horse races, there’s nothing more American than the Kentucky Derby. This trophy is a fun slice of American history, with rock solid provenance, and it is simply breathtaking.”

Fans tuning in to the 135th Kentucky Derby tomorrow, will be able to see a similar trophy awarded to this year’s winner—New England Sterling of North Atteboro, Massachusetts (which has made the trophy since 1975) has handcrafted a 14 karat gold cup that features the same elegant design as the one at Skinner. Indeed, the trophy has changed little since the first one was awarded in 1924, except that beginning in 1999 the horseshoe on the front has been turned upward—in keeping with the superstition that a down turned horseshoe is bad luck.