May 1, 2015 | By: Katy Bennett
Lexington, Ky.

Two prominent Kentuckians and University of Kentucky alumni will be featured as part of NBC's coverage of the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.

Tom Hammond, a 1967 graduate of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is the co-host of NBC's coverage of the Kentucky Derby, a position he's held since 2001.

Hammond is synonymous with Thoroughbred racing in the Bluegrass and across the globe. In his 30-year history with NBC, Hammond has covered figure skating, college and professional football and basketball, track and field, swimming and diving and gymnastics in addition to horse racing.

"I never thought I would go into broadcasting," Hammond said in a recent interview with UK Public Relations and Marketing. "It (was) something that happened almost by accident."

In 1984 Hammond was hired by NBC on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup. That telecast won the prestigious Eclipse Award, and Hammond has been involved with NBC Sports ever since. Hammond will also host the coverage of the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, rounding out this year's Triple Crown coverage.

In the fall, Hammond expects to return to his "Old Kentucky Home," Keeneland, as the historic track hosts the 2015 Breeders' Cup for the first time.

"I think it belongs here, it's good to come here, the people will appreciate it, they love horse racing in this area, and to have it at Keeneland, which is one of the special racetracks in America, makes it a special day, I think," Hammond said. "It’s a homecoming of sorts."

Joining Hammond as part of NBC's broadcast is actress, philanthropist and UK super fan Ashley Judd. Judd, a 2007 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced on Twitter that she was honored and thankful to NBC for "allowing me the pleasure of narrating the opening of the 141st Kentucky Derby at venerable Churchill Downs."

Judd is an Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress famous for her roles in film and television including "Kiss the Girls," "Double Jeopardy" and the "Divergent" series. While at UK, she was a member of the UK Honors Program, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2007, she delivered the Paul G. Blazer Lecture at the university.

The University of Kentucky connections at the Kentucky Derby do not end there. For the 28th year, the famous blanket of roses awarded to the Kentucky Derby winning horse is being created by the Kroger Floral Center at the Shelbyville Road Kroger location in Louisville. The Kroger Company's chairman and CEO is W. Rodney McMullen, a 1981 and 1982 graduate of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. McMullen started with the company in 1978 as a part-time stock clerk while attending UK.

Another important aspect of the Derby festivities is the food. For the third year, Chef Jeremy Ashby is a guest chef at the Taste of Derby celebration. Ashby, a 2007 graduate of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is a partner in the Azur Food Group and has participated in many James Beard dinner tours, is a winner of the inaugural Lyons Farm International Chef Showdown in 2012 and placed first in the Kentucky Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2011. 

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby posts at 6:24 p.m. Saturday, May 2, from Churchill Downs in Louisville. Coverage of the event begins at 4 p.m. on NBC.


Katy Bennett, 859-257-1909;