April 19, 2024. Louisville, KY. – Two special awards will be presented at the Kentucky Derby Festival’s annual They’re Off! Luncheon Presented by BAE Systems on Friday, April 19 in the Grand Ballroom of the Galt House Hotel.

Each year, the Derby Festival presents the Silver Horseshoe Award, a tradition since 1962, to an individual or organization for their outstanding service to the community. The Volunteer of the Year Award will also be given out at the luncheon, which kicks off a weekend of Derby Festival festivities at 11:30 a.m.

This year’s recipient of the Silver Horseshoe Award is the Churchill Downs Foundation, which is committed to providing positive stewardship for the horseracing industry and is focused on supporting connections to the equine industry and ensuring its continued growth and stability. In addition to industry-related initiatives, the Foundation is committed to funding that will enhance and invigorate the quality of life for neighborhoods surrounding Churchill Downs Racetrack.

As part of the Silver Horseshoe Award, the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation – the Derby Festival’s charitable arm – will present a check for $5,000 to the Churchill Downs Foundation that is earmarked for Thoroughbred Aftercare. Aftercare helps horses make a safe transition off the racetrack, including care, retraining, and rehoming of Thoroughbreds once they retire from their racing career.

Laneisha Beasley has been named the 2024 Volunteer of the Year. Known for being a great advocate of the Derby Festival in the community, Beasley has been a volunteer with the Derby Festival for several years, including being involved with the Zoeller Pump Company Pegasus Parade. This year marks her fourth year serving as co-chair of the Parade’s Specialty Units.

Beasley’s volunteerism reaches beyond the Parade. She played an integral role in helping establish the Derby Festival’s Block Party event in West Louisville in 2022 as part of the Derby Equity and Community Initiative (DECI). She stays actively involved on the committee, overseeing the Kids Zone and recruiting both volunteers and attendees.

“I’m a giver, I’m always pouring into people. It makes me feel good, she said.

Another highlight of the 2024 They’re Off! Luncheon is featured speaker and legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. The renowned sports icon, Olympic Gold Medalist and Hall of Famer is both a champion inside and outside the ring. Through his Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, he has funded countless research projects and offered life-changing patient care for children living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Leonard joins Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, Dr. “J” Julius Erving, Boomer Esiason, Erin Andrews, Dick Vitale, Robin Roberts, Lary King, Bob Costas and James Earl Jones in a long list of luminaries who have entertained They’re Off! Luncheon audiences for more than 60 years.

The They’re Off! Luncheon, first held in 1957, serves as the time-honored kick-off to each year’s Kentucky Derby Festival. It’s the second-oldest event on the Festival schedule.

BAE Systems is the Presenting Sponsor of the Luncheon. Contributing Sponsors: Fifth Third Bank, The Galt House Hotel and Kentucky Proud. Official Luxury Vehicle: Cadillac/Courtesy Cadillac. Media Sponsor: Louisville Business First. Supporting Sponsor: Jeff’s Donuts.

June 21 - June 21