LOUISVILLE, Ky. — All eyes may be on Baltimore for the second leg of the Triple Crown, but it turns out the race has a closer connection to Louisville than people may think.
Tucked away in the Saint Matthews area sits a smaller city called Woodlawn Park. It holds an often hidden piece of horse racing history.
"We're the closest thing to Mayberry this side of your TV," Mayor Larry Lewis said. "It's quiet and peaceful. Our police chief once said you can take a walk here at 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning and feel safe."
The small city of Woodlawn Park started in 1954, but its roots date back decades before.
"In 1859, Woodlawn Race Course opened on this property. At the time, it was considered by many to be the Saratoga of the West,” Lewis said.
There were two tracks for thoroughbreds and trotters.
"Some of the thoroughbred races were as much as four miles in length at the time,” Lewis said.
Fast forward a few years to 1861 when famous breeder, R.A. Alexander, commissioned Tiffany's to create the winning trophy for the Woodlawn Classic. They called it the Woodlawn Vase, but the Civil War forced the treasure into hiding.
"They had to bury the trophy somewhere on the property to keep it safe from marauding confederate soldiers,” Lewis said.
It sat in secret for years.
"The track officially closed in 1870, which was five years before Churchill Downs opened,” Lewis said.
The trophy eventually made its way above ground and back to the racing world.
"In 1917, it found its way to Baltimore and is now the winning trophy of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Track in Maryland,” Lewis said.
To be clear, the Woodlawn Vase is worth around $3.8 million, so the winner gets a replica. It's about 35% the size of the original and worth a mere $40,000.
"You have to be proud of the fact that you have that type of history in the city,” Lewis said. "When we watch it, we can say that came from here when they present that trophy."
Neighbors like Nick Colyer are.
"It is a big deal. It's a massive, big, cool, shiny trophy, and all of that dates back to this neighborhood,” Colyer said. “In football, you've got the Lombardi Trophy, in hockey you've got the Stanley Cup, Churchill Downs you've got the Run for the Roses, but the Preakness you've got the Woodlawn Vase.”
Any sign of what once was may be long gone, but not for Colyer.
"Sometimes when I'm sitting out on my back porch with my dog, I kind of like to imagine horses coming down the stretch and the roar of the crowd as people are winning their bets," Colyer said. "It's a pretty neat piece of history."
It’s a treasure for this tiny town and all who call it home.
"It started right here in this little city of Woodlawn Park,” Lewis said. “The spirit is still here.”
Coyler said that as a fan of history and horseracing, he feels like he got the best of both worlds living in Woodlawn.
"I think that the spirit of Woodlawn and the racetrack lives in every Woodlawn neighbor that we have today,” Colyer said.