FRANKLIN, Ky. (Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023) — The guitars that serve as trophies for the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs’ nine graded stakes are autographed by Tanya Tucker, who earlier this year was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In the four years since Kentucky Downs first awarded a George Strait-signed guitar as the inaugural Music City trophy, they have become one of the most coveted trophies in horse racing, given their uniqueness. The track subsequently expanded the guitar trophies to include all their graded stakes.
“Growing up in Texas, I’ve always loved horses,” Tucker said. “And of course Nashville is such a special place to those of us in country music. So I’m delighted to be part of Kentucky Downs’ celebration of the region’s heritage – horses and music – by having guitars as trophies. I mean, how cool is that?”
Born in Seminole, Texas, Tucker was only 13 when she had her first country hit, the classic “Delta Dawn” in 1972. She has amassed 23 Top 40 albums and 56 Top 40 singles, 10 of which reached No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Tucker is regarded as one of the most admired and influential artists in country-music history, with hits such as “Soon,” “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” “It’s a Little Too Late,” “Trouble,” “Texas (When I Die),” “If It Don’t Come Easy” and “Strong Enough To Bend.”
In 2020, Tucker received two GRAMMY® Awards for Best Country Album: “While I’m Livin,’” and Best Country Song: “Bring My Flowers Now.” A 2022 documentary, “The Return of Tanya Tucker, Featuring Brandi Carlile,” chronicled the resurgence in her career following the success of While I’m Livin’. Last December Tucker made her acting debut in a lead role in Paramount’s “A Nashville Country Christmas.”
Kentucky Downs guitar trophies started in 2020 when LNJ Foxwoods’ Lighthouse won the Music City trophy signed by George Strait. Reba McEntire signed the 2021 guitars, followed by Trace Adkins last year.
But it’s not just having a musical instrument. It’s getting guitars signed by standout country-music artists that makes them such a coveted trophy.
“Kentucky Downs is unique, and we want distinctive prizes for our stakes,” said Ted Nicholson, Vice President of Racing for Kentucky Downs. “The guitars have been a big hit with our racehorse owners – even more so because they also are signed by country-music icons who know about big hits. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have our 2023 guitar trophies autographed by Tanya Tucker, fresh off being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame that’s only 40 minutes from Kentucky Downs.”
In addition to having Tucker’s signature, a plaque with the winning horse’s name and ownership will be mounted on the guitar.
Owners of Kentucky Downs’ other major races also receive distinctive trophies that celebrate the track’s heritage on both sides of the border that it practically straddles.
The winners of non-graded stakes are awarded a Kentucky Downs-themed whiskey decanter personalized with their silks. The trophies for allowance races are a bourbon-barrel head customized with the winning owners’ colors. Maiden winners receive a high-tech Fenwick Equestrian horse sheet promoting Kentucky Downs and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund that allows the tracks to have some of the richest purses in the world. All stakes winners also receive the Fenwick horse blanket.
The owners of select races receive a commemorative bottle of the bourbon of the day, personalized as being a winner at Kentucky Downs.