Hermitage Farm owner reflects on new Derby event, prized horses

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 24, 2014 at 10:10 PM

Updated Sunday, Aug 24 at 10:19 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It’s been a week to remember for 21C Museum Hotel founder Steve Wilson.

The art collector, bison farmer, horse enthusiast followed his Wednesday announcement of what he promises to be the most glamorous and star-studded charity event in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

With the derby gala hosts bidding $1 million Thursday on the Kentucky State Fair’s blue ribbon country ham, their half of the overall $2 million record ham was shared with Republic Bank.

“We’re going to confiscate it and serve it at the Hermitage Grand Gala,” Wilson said jokingly.

How does the philanthropist and preservationist follow that up? It’s with a special delivery to the Hermitage Farm Wilson shares with his wife Laura Lee Brown in Goshen, Kentucky.

Wilson just received two Lipizzaner horses that were delivered from Hungary.

“They were drive from Hungary to Belgium, flown from Belgium to New York and [then] driven from New York down to Kentucky this morning,” Wilson said.

The rare 600-year-old bloodline was originally bred exclusively for the Hapsburg royal family in Austria.

“It was used by Napoleon because of its stamina,” Wilson added.

Wilson hopes the Lipizzaners with their distinctive character, gait and strength will help land him a spot on the U.S. Equestrian Team for the world championships next summer.

“In the combined driving events, you need a horse that's very athletic that can handle the race through the marathon, but also a horse that's very controlled and defined and delicate,” he said. “It's a lot like figure skating actually, so you have the compulsory and then you have the race in our case.

Wilson will get his first chance to compete with his new prized equines next month at his Hermitage Classic carriage driving competitions.

“A lot of people know about a three-day event for the ridden dressage horses, but this is a three-day event for driving,” Wilson said.

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