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Woodford Reserve Is The Kentucky Derby's New Presenting Sponsor

Kentucky Derby 143 (Click on the photo to see more images from the day)
Kentucky Derby 143 (Click on the photo to see more images from the day)

Next year’s Kentucky Derby will have a new presenting sponsor.

Churchill Downs and Woodford Reserve bourbon officials Wednesday announced a five-year sponsorship agreement. Starting in 2018, the race will be known as "the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve."

Woodford Reserve replaces Yum Brands as the presenting sponsor. Louisville-based Yum asked to end its agreement after a decade to focus more on its individual brands, which include KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said it was an amicable parting.

“They approached us at some point in the last year or so and said some of their priorities and objectives in their company as they’ve gone through some changes — they’ve made some changes," he said. "It’s been a long and fruitful relationship. They’ve been the presenting sponsor for 10 years.”

Woodford Reserve, owned by Louisville-based Brown-Forman, is just the second presenting sponsor of the Derby. CEO Paul Varga called it a rare opportunity.

“How many events can you get involved with where they are continuously held at the same place, and that builds the proposition over time?" Varga said. "I really do feel like 'the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs presented by Woodford Reserve,' you can’t find a lot of better examples.”

The financial terms of the five-year sponsorship agreement were not disclosed.

Rick Howlett was midday host and the host of LPM's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." He was with LPM from 2001-2023 and held many different titles, including Morning Edition host, Assignment Editor and Interim News Director. He died in August 2023. Read a remembrance of Rick here.