SportsRace to the Derby


The man behind the famed bugle continues his 27-year run at Churchill Downs

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Posted at 4:47 PM, May 07, 2022

CHURCHILL DOWNS, Ky. (LEX18) — The call to the post is an iconic sound at the racetrack, and one man has had the job at Churchill Downs for the past 27 years.

The world will soon have their eyes on Kentucky Derby's official bugler, Steve Buttleman. You can't always see him, but one thing is for sure. If you've been to Keeneland or Churchill Downs, you've heard of him.

Before the greatest two minutes in sports, there's a point where he just might be the most-watched man in the world.

To connect with him, he knows the way to our hearts.

"In life, it doesn't really matter what you do or what your passion is," said Buttleman. "It's how you do what you do and you can affect your whole sphere around you everywhere you go and make the world a better place."

His passion started as a young boy in Iowa.

"I started playing trumpet in fifth grade," he says. "Played in middle school, high school."

Behind the iconic green from Keeneland, or the emblematic red of Churchill Downs, Steve approaches 27 years at Churchill Downs. But his own call to the post on the path to the Derby was nearly a scratch.

"I went into medicine and nursing for a couple of years, and that's how my wife and I met," said Buttleman. "I had kind of put the trumpet away for a while. Once our daughter was born, I kind of re-evaluated things I enjoyed doing and started playing again."

Reunited with a young love, Buttleman has another hidden talent. One hidden up his sleeve, quite literally.

"I always try to have horses or bracelets in my pocket," he says.

Using them, as a way, to continue his mission.

"That's one of the things i do in between races, is make jewelry," said Buttleman.

It's this gift, and, of course, the famed, historic one, that builds a connection with fans.