By Gina Holt
FLORENCE - The race formerly known as the Jim Beam will now be pouring Maker's Mark.
Maker's Mark, the world-famous bourbon whiskey distillery in Loretto, will sponsor Turfway's VIP tent on Lane's End Stakes Day.
From 1982 to 1998, the Kentucky Derby prep race was known simply as "The Beam." It was sponsored during those years by the maker of Jim Beam bourbon.
This year, Lane's End Farm in Versailles, owned by Will Farish, will sponsor the event for the second year. This year's Lane's End Stakes is scheduled for March 22.
Some bourbon drinkers would argue that the VIP tent sponsorship is a libational move uptown.
"Like Lane's End Farm, they (Maker's Mark) are a world-class operation and their brand recognition only adds to the prestige to this already great day," said Turfway Park President Robert N. Elliston. "Maker's Mark has long been a valued partner with Keeneland, and we hope to establish a similar relationship in years to come."
The Maker's Mark Distillery was founded in 1953 by Bill Samuels Sr. on 200 acres that had been the Burks Spring Distillery. That distillery began operation in 1805. In 1980, Maker's Mark Distillery was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Now run by Samuels' son, Bill Jr., it is the smallest and oldest operating distillery in the nation.
Ginger Greer, regional manager for Maker's Mark, said she realizes many people still associate the Lane's End Stakes with the Jim Beam Stakes. However, she and Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker's Mark, are not concerned that people will confuse Jim Beam and Maker's Mark.
"We see this as a great opportunity to get more involved in the Northern Kentucky community," Greer said. "We look forward to this sponsorship for years to come. We like to make everything we do fun and interactive. We want to make it memorable for the guests."
"At Maker's Mark, the only thing we are serious about is making whiskey," said Samuels.
"We try to not take ourselves too seriously, so when it's party time, we have fun."
Shannon Simms, a race fan from Southgate, said it doesn't matter whether Maker's Mark or Jim Beam is associated with the race.
"They're both great Kentucky bourbons," she said. "No matter what, it will be a fun day at Turfway."
Maker's Mark will have exclusive bourbon pour in the VIP tent and a display station where patrons can have their Lane's End Stakes glasses dipped in the signature red wax that is seen dripping down each bottle of Maker`s Mark.
There will be a Maker's Mark Manhattan bar in the tent with free Maker's Mark drinks to all 2,000 tent guests at the 32nd running of $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on March 22.
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