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NEWS | May 6, 2024

Kentucky National Guard Supports 150th Kentucky Derby

By Sgt. Caleb Sooter, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard augmented Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and Churchill Downs to assist with security and traffic for the historic 150th runnings of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, May 4-5, 2024.

Military Police of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were positioned alongside LMPD Officers at more than 20 key intersections and checkpoints around Churchill Downs to assist traffic direction and provide additional safety, lightening the demand on local law enforcement agencies. With over 260,000 spectators in attendance, 149th MEB’s presence at Churchill Downs eased the workload on local law enforcement.

“Working with the MPs is outstanding. They keep us from having to pull officers off the street. They’re all hard chargers, and they’re highly motivated,” said LMPD Lieutenant Butch Isbell. “I’m glad they keep coming back. It’s a good relationship.”

More than 100 Soldiers and Airmen assisted with the Kentucky Derby week through Oaks and Derby Day. A key part of the Kentucky Guard’s involvement is the decades-old tradition of guarding the Derby trophy.

“It really is an honor to be here and watch the trophy, the races, and meet all the people at Derby,” said Sgt. Scott Zelensky of the 940th Military Police Company. “It’s exciting that people are really happy to see us here. I’m really grateful for the opportunity.” Zelensky served as the NCOIC assigned to the trophy guard.

Soldiers assigned to the trophy detail escorted the trophy through Churchill Downs, allowing visitors to see the trophy themselves before escorting it to the winner’s circle, placing it on the podium where it waited for Governor Andy Beshear to present it to the winning horse.

“It’s an honor to have the Kentucky National Guard here. We cherish that connection between Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby, and the soldiers of the 149th [MEB] here today,” said Mike Anderson, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “That’s part of our history. The fact that we can have their presence here guarding one of our most treasured assets that we give out to winners is just fantastic to us, and we look forward to doing this for a hundred and fifty more years with the Guard.”

2024 marks the 118th time the Kentucky National Guard has been involved with the Derby at Churchill Downs. The multiple agencies and organizations are confident the partnership and cooperation will only get better. The Kentucky Guard and the City of Louisville look forward to continuing the tradition at the 151st Kentucky Derby in 2025.

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