Maker's Mark and the Breeders' Cup are teaming on a series of limited edition bottles honoring some of Thoroughbred racing's most popular recent champions, officials announced Wednesday at Keeneland.
Zenyatta, Cigar, A.P. Indy, Personal Ensign and Lure will be honored on special bottles of the premium bourbon, featuring their silks colors with signature wax in silver, over the next three years.
Only 500 of each bottle will be produced, making them the smallest-ever limited edition runs for Maker's Mark.
The Champions for Charities endeavor is intended to raise at least $1 million for Breeders' Cup Charities, according to the organizations.
Bottles featuring AP Indy, Personal Ensign and Lure will be released this year; the Zenyatta bottle will be released in 2016, and the Cigar bottle in 2017.
Breeders' Cup COO Bob Elliston said he envisioned collectors vying for all five, which he said were works of art comparable to the horses they represent. But you can't buy the bottles anywhere. Potential owners will have to pay $400 for the right to bid in an auction for each one they want to buy.
Before this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which will be at Keeneland in October for the first time, Maker's Mark will host a ticketed party at Keeneland on Oct. 29, called Champions for Charity.
Attendees will be able to bid on bottles, with all the proceeds going to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, the Lexington Cancer Foundation, Race for Education, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Foundation.
"It's truly an honor for Maker's Mark to partner with such an iconic sporting event as the Breeders' Cup and to join hands in support of these great causes," said Rob Samuels, Maker's Mark COO. "When my grandparents created Maker's Mark just over 60 years ago, Keeneland was their first customer. His whole idea was to create a bourbon he was proud to share with his friends, many of whom affiliated with Thoroughbred racing, and Keeneland made that possible."
Maker's Mark also will be featured in a signature cocktail at Keeneland and for all major Breeders' Cup parties and hospitality events throughout the week, including Taste of the World and the Finish Line Celebration Party.
"We couldn't be more excited about this partnership with Maker's Mark," Craig Fravel, Breeders' Cup president and CEO, said in a news release. Fravel joked Wednesday that he and Ellis ton sampled a few glasses of Maker's to make the decision on who to enshrine in bourbon history.
Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish said the lineup of horses on the bottles "is nothing short of staggeringly impressive," but he was especially touched to see A.P. Indy on a bottle. His family's Lane's End farm bred the 1992 Breeders' Cup Classic winner, which was sold as a yearling for $2.9 million to Tomonori Tsurumaki. Lane's End reacquired him to stand at stud, where A.P. Indy has been its top stallion.
Now retired, A.P. Indy is the oldest living Breeders' Cup Classic winner and is in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Farish offered his thanks for the future bottles.
"Those who do acquire these bottles will truly be making a difference in the lives of people and horses that are the backbone of Kentucky's signature industry," he said.
Of the other honorees this year, Lure was a two-time Breeders' Cup mile champion raced by Claiborne Farm's Hancock family; and Personal Ensign was the1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, raced by the Phipps family.
Zenyatta, who won the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic, and Cigar, who won the 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic, were both hugely popular with racing fans.
Maker's Mark also will promote the races at off-premise markets and will be involved in the world championships at Santa Anita in 2016 and at the debut at Del Mar in 2017.
The bottles will be signed by connections of the five horse champions.
To learn more about signing up for the bottles, got to Breederscup.com/champions-for-charity?force-web.