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'The Kentucky Derby' Is Crowned Again

by Whitney Hale & Mack McCormic

Book Cover of "The Kentucky Derby"LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 30, 2013) — University Press of Kentucky (UPK) author and University of Kentucky part-time history instructor James C. Nicholson has been named the recipient of a 2012 Kentucky History Award given by the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) for his book "The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event." This is the second award the book has garnered.

The Kentucky History Awards recognize outstanding achievements by historians, public history professionals, volunteers, business and civic leaders, communities and historical organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The KHS encourages organizations, individuals and communities across the state to nominate deserving projects and individuals for their efforts to promote the preservation, awareness, and appreciation of state and local history.

The KHS recognizes publications in five categories each year, categorizing them by budget size. Nicholson received his award in category E (for projects with the largest budget) in recognition of his exemplary historical publication.

Nicholson will be recognized at an awards ceremony that will immediately follow the KHS Annual Meeting at the Old State Capitol 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, in Frankfort, Ky. The Kentucky History Awards ceremony is free and open to the public, but reservations are required by Friday, Nov. 1. Contact Julia Curry at or 502-564-1792, ext. 4414, or visit for more information.

In "The Kentucky Derby," Nicholson offers a look at the evolution of the Derby as well as its international, national, and regional importance. He details the Derby’s existence as an intersection of past traditions and contemporary culture, for both Kentuckians and Americans, and examines the historical, political, and cultural significance of horse racing’s most famous event. Few festivals and gatherings have maintained such a delicate balance between exuberant glamor and local approachability as the Kentucky Derby — the brightest jewel of the Triple Crown.

Nicholson is the third UPK author in as many years to win a KHS publication award, joining William E. Ellis who won last year for "A History of Education in Kentucky," and Estill Curtis Pennington who won the previous year for "Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802–1920."

The award also marks the second award for "The Kentucky Derby," which was also named the winner of the Southern Kentucky Book Fest’s Kentucky Literary Award for nonfiction earlier this year.

Nicholson recently received a doctorate in history from UK. He is also the author of "Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry."

UPK is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The press has a dual mission — the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. University Press of Kentucky is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of UK and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.