LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby Museum made some history of its own Monday, breaking ground on $6.5 million construction project.

The expansion will include seating for educational programming and construction of an entirely new third floor to house administrative offices, a large conference room and storage areas.  

Patrick Armstrong, the Kentucky Derby Museum president and CEO, promises that the expansion will "provide a more dynamic experience for people coming to the museum..."

Monday's groundbreaking was noteworthy for another reason: It was the last day for the museum's resident thoroughbred and miniature companion horse, Winston. 

Winston has been a fixture at the museum for 22 years, a tiny ambassador helping thoroughbreds get accustomed to life at Churchill Downs. Winston will spend the rest of his years at the Old Friends' Thoroughbred Retirement Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Winston has been the companion horse to more than 30 resident thoroughbreds, including Derby 135 winner, Mine That Bird.

Gene Logan, a longtime museum tour guide, said he is looking forward to the seeing the project completed. He said he started working at the museum in September 1995, just two weeks before Winston showed up.

"He's been a companion for all the resident thoroughbreds," Logan said. "When the new horse come in, he was the boss ... no matter if he was just 'that' tall!

"We had some nice thoroughbreds here like Mine That Bird."

Winston's current stable is being torn down, but it will be rebuilt and moved to open up a new outdoor area for events like weddings and parties.


The new third floor will leave space below for exhibits like one that will feature a collection of memorabilia from legendary trainer D. Wayne Lucas.

"I'm excited,"  Logan said. "With the expansion of another floor up there, and a lot more exhibit space ... It's a very small museum anyway, but it's wonderful. It's packed full of good stuff if you love horses like I do."

Most notable for fans will be a parking expansion and a new entryway. The new construction will pave spaces that once made for a muddy walk into the track.

"We're continuing to invest in the customer experience," said Darren Rogers, Spokesman for Churchill Downs.

New suites will also add 1,800 seats at the starting gate.

"They say it will be ready by Derby time," Logan said.

Workers will get started on the expansion this month, but construction of the new third floor won't begin until after this year's Derby.

The museum, which hosted 230,000 guests in 2017, will remain open during construction. 

The entire expansion is scheduled to be finished by November of 2018 in time for the Breeders' Cup.

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