Breaking News
More () »

'I was in awe of this place': Security manager has been protecting Churchill Downs for nearly 50 years

Bill Vest says the safety and wellbeing of all the horses and up to 700 people who live in Churchill Downs Backside is his responsibility.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The fan experience at Churchill Downs is usually in the grandstands, on the paddock, and in the infield. 

But, the horses, the trainers, and the full entourage they require are all on the backside. 

Backside Security Manager Bill Vest said though he works with a smile on his face, he takes his role at Churchill Downs seriously.

“I've got a community here of sometimes up to 700 people that live here, and then we got the horses that are here, and they're my responsibility. So I take it pretty serious,” Vest said.

If the backside of Churchill Downs was a small city, Vest would be the mayor.

"I came here in 1975. It was the Saturday morning after Full Disclosure won the Derby. I was young and I was in awe of this place,” he said. 

"I was a groom trying to learn my trade. Back then, I was fortunate enough to be here when the old African American grooms," he said. "Talk about the best horsemen in the world. They were here. I got to walk with them and they taught me."

With his nearly 50 years at the track, Vest links generations. 

“Being in this business, it's a commitment. It's the love of the animal. And, that's why I'm here because I love the animals. And that's what keeps me coming back,” he said. 

“The Derby is our time for Kentucky to shine, and we want to do better than everybody else," Vest said. "And I believe we do. Nobody puts on a big event like Churchill Downs.”

Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Before You Leave, Check This Out