Woodford Reserve signs five-year sponsorship of Kentucky Derby

Whiskey brand replaces Yum as presenting sponsor of US horse race from 2018.

Woodford Reserve signs five-year sponsorship of Kentucky Derby

Whiskey brand Woodford Reserve has been announced as the presenting sponsor of the next five editions of the Kentucky Derby. 

The agreement between host track Churchill Downs and Kentucky spirits company Brown-Forman will begin with the 144th running of the Group One US horse race, which will be known as the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, on 5th May 2018.

The bourbon also becomes the presenting sponsor of the Thursday card at the Kentucky Derby meeting, known colloquially as ‘Thurby’. Woodford Reserve replaces Yum Brands, which is the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and was the first ever presenting sponsor of the historic thoroughbred horse race. 

Although Churchill Downs and Yum announced a five-year extension of their agreement in 2014, the two parties ended their collaboration by mutual consent after this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Old Forester, another Brown-Forman brand, will remain as the official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby, as it has been since 2015.

“We are thrilled to be making this announcement and look forward to furthering our relationship with the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs,” said Paul Varga, chief executive of Brown-Forman. “The Kentucky Derby is a legendary horse race with a premier sports experience and we believe putting together two of Kentucky’s finest - Woodford Reserve and the Kentucky Derby - is a natural fit.”

Bill Carstanjen, chief executive of Churchill Downs, added: "Our companies share Kentucky as their birthplace and each has developed brands that have achieved international success and earned reputations for excellence. 

“The Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs have recorded significant growth in recent years and we're confident that the expansion of our ongoing partnership with Brown-Forman is an important step in the continued growth of the Kentucky Derby as a premier international entertainment event."

The Kentucky Derby is the first race of American racing’s Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, which is completed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. The 2017 contest was won by Always Dreaming, who gave trainer Todd Pletcher his second victory in the 143rd running of the race.