LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — The "Run for the Roses" is more than just a fun nickname for the Kentucky Derby. It is the trophy the horses run for each May, and a tradition that dates back decades.
The rose garland draped across the winning horse is made in Louisville at the Middletown Kroger. The trophy was finished Friday and weighs 40 pounds -- no more, no less.
"We'll have about 15 people working total from start to finish," said Kroger Derby Coordinator Allison Gousha. "It's a trophy unlike any other in the world."
Gousha said each rose is slid into its own water tube and hand-sewed into the garland by a group of current and retired Kroger employees in Louisville.
She explained, "We'll get in around 5,000 roses [and] we'll use around 465."
Beneath those roses, the rose garland always also has a special tip of the cap to Kentucky.
"There is the Commonwealth crest on one side underneath the garland and on the other side is the Derby seal," Gousha said.
Kroger has been putting the rose garland together since the inception of the floral trophy in 1987.
"They wanted something to run for," Gousha said. "It became 'Run for the Roses' when we picked the rose."
Kroger Corporate Affairs Manager Erin Grant said making the rose garland and the lily garland is an honor the company does not take lightly.
"To do something special for the state of Kentucky for such a historical event that's watched around the world, and to be able to feature our floral artists, our master florist, every year with that is really really special to see," she said.
Grant explained their efforts are all about tradition.
"It absolutely is done to perfection. It goes with like the running of the roses, the tradition, the commitment to excellence that's also, you know what Kroger focuses on to make sure that we're always delivering on our promise to make the best trophy for the jockey and the horsemen and all those involved."
After months of planning and hours of choosing flowers and sewing them together, the coveted bed of roses means something to more than just those in the winner's circle.
Gousha smiled and said, "When that horse wins, and the garland goes up on that horse, then it's the best feeling."