LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two men who loved horses, racing and the Kentucky Derby are being immortalized under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.
Statues of the late John Asher and Colonel Matt Winn were unveiled Thursday in the Paddock. The statues, sculpted by local artist Raymond Graf, depict Asher and Winn sitting on a horseshoe bench engaged in a conversation. Families of both men were at the unveiling.
Asher's role as an ambassador to the Kentucky Derby was formed over 40 years, as he became the face and voice of horse racing in local and national media. He was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of thoroughbreds. Asher joined Churchill Downs in 1997 and served as vice president of Racing Communications until his untimely passing on Aug. 27, 2018 at age 62. A section of Central Avenue in front of Churchill Downs was renamed John S. Asher Way in his honor.
Winn served as general manager and later president of Churchill Downs from 1914 until his passing at age 88 in 1949. He was the driving force in the development of the Downs and a tireless promoter of his beloved Kentucky Derby.
Winn and Asher never met, but both men shared a love of horses and Churchill Downs. Friends say Winn was a hero to Asher who once said, “When I get to the great day, I would be awfully happy if someone said, ‘Matt Winn would’ve loved this guy.’” It is that quote that inspired the sculptures.
The unveiling comes on opening day of Churchill Downs' 12-date September Meet. Racing will take place Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 3. Opening day is the first of three Twilight Thursdays with evening racing, drink specials, food trucks and live music on the Plaza Stage. Gates open at 4 p.m. and the first of eight races is at 5 p.m. General admission is $5 and reserved seating options start at $12.
IMAGES | Churchill Downs unveils statue of John Asher and Matt Winn
Churchill Downs unveiled a statue of longtime track president Matt Winn, the father of the modern Kentucky Derby, and John Asher, the late track Vice President and longtime ambassador for the race, on Thursday just next to the paddock. Some scenes from the ceremony.
A special Downs After Dark is planned Saturday for "Horses and Hoops." The Louisville Live event features the University of Louisville’s annual preseason basketball event between races throughout the night. Five stakes events are included in the 11 races including the $300,000 Iroquois for 2-year-olds that launches the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby.
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