Local officers guard Triple Crown winner


Photo courtesy of Kim Willis Triple Crown winning race horse American Pharoah is welcomed back to Churchill Downs on Sunday, June 7 after his big win at the Belmont Stakes the previous day.

Grayson County has played a small part in history as numerous local law enforcement officers have had the chance to guard 2015 Triple Crown-winning race horse American Pharoah over the last number of months.

The security team, coordinated by Kim Willis, of the Grayson County Detention Center, consists of about 150 off-duty law enforcement officers—45 of whom are from Grayson County and represent all of the various local law enforcement agencies—who work in shifts guarding American Pharoah 24 hours a day while he is in Churchill Downs.

“We go wherever the horse goes,” said Willis, who personally met American Pharoah on Sunday, June 7 when he returned to Churchill Downs after his big win at the Belmont Stakes.

“It’s kind of exciting because you feel like you have a little piece of history,” Willis said of guarding the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Willis said that in the nine years she has worked security for Churchill Downs, she has seen a lot of horses, but American Pharoah “is the calmest, friendliest horse I’ve ever seen.”

When security for American Pharoah began around April 16, officers were guarding him only at night, but after he won the Kentucky Derby on May 2, his security was bumped up to 24 hours a day.

The guard team screens everyone who wishes to go into the barn to see American Pharoah or his trainers, and while Willis said there has been a lot of activity, the guard team hasn’t encountered any trouble thus far.

Willis said all of the officers have become close with American Pharoah’s trainers and handlers over the past three months.

Willis said she told Trainer Jimmy Barnes, who trains American Pharoah under Bob Baffert, that after American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, Barnes would need to think about who will play him in the movie about the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Willis also wished to recognize Churchill Downs Heads of Security Rob King and Danny Crages, who are thankful for Willis and her team’s hard work.

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