Ellis Park bugler carries special tune at derby race

Ellis Park bugler carries special tune at derby race

HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - For more than 20 years, Bret Birkhead has hyped up fans inside Ellis Park with a simple melody. 

“Oh since the 1990s, after that it fades - it’s a long time,” Birkhead said. “I try to create an atmosphere with my part of it. Just as a way of getting everybody excited about what’s about to occur.”

For the first time ever in Ellis Park’s racing history, a Kentucky Derby qualifier took place on Sunday. 

“For that moment, you’re kind of the center of attention for a few seconds,” Birkhead said. “And so naturally you hope that you do a good job, because if you don’t - everyone will know.”

With years of experience, a big race like this one doesn’t intimidate the Bugler. 

“If everything were perfect every time, it would feel like a recording,” Birkhead said.

Birkhead changes his tune every few races. Once he’s done playing his trumpet, he watches the races. 

“I didn’t have a bet on any of them specifically,” Birkhead said. “A time or two I had a bet, and I cared quite a bit.”

Art Collector won the qualifier race in dominating fashion, which means the winning horse will move onto “The Run for the Roses” slated on September 5.

“I’m happy for the winner because it means that horse that won that 10th race is going to be a part of something that every horse owner hopes for,” Birkhead said.

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