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Georgetown man remembers Nixon's day at the Derby

Posted at 12:06 PM, Apr 28, 2021

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Richard Nixon was the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Kentucky Derby, and a Georgetown man has some very special memorabilia from that day in 1969.

1969 was the year Majestic Prince won the Derby and that same year, many U.S. governors attended the Run for the Roses after a week-long conference in the Bluegrass State.

Ron Miller's father, Kentucky State Trooper John R. Miller, was assigned to then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who flew in last minute.

"Around 3 p.m., he asked if he could still make the Derby. My father assured him they could because the Derby runs late," said Miller.

Reagan wasn't the only one who wanted to go. A change in plans led to another high-profile request from Nixon.

"While in the plane he was watching the derby events on TV and asked if he could go to the Derby," said Miller. "They landed in Louisville and a dispatcher was looking for any trooper available to meet them and take them to the Derby."

Miller was the only one left outside Churchill Downs.

"So he and Governor Reagan went to the airport picked up the president to take him to the Derby. Security being as it is, they didn't have anything set up for the president," said Miller. "So they decided to take him as Governor Reagan's plus-one and basically sneak him into the Derby."

Once inside, Miller said Nixon turned to his dad for advice on how to read the racing program and bet.

"He said, John, you just pick the horse and we'll go with it. Well, my father liked number 8," said Miller.

That was Majestic Prince and Nixon never cashed in his $5 winning ticket.

"He signed the winning ticket and also gave my father the ink pen he signed it with, which is embossed with his name. And, Governor Reagan and the President signed the racing program," said Miller.