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Kentucky Derby offers pricey cocktail

A $1,000 cocktail made of exotic ingredients from around the world with which horse race fans can toast their favorite past year winners is another measure of flair by a premium bourbon maker to the prestigious Kentucky Derby.

Hoping to best its ritzy mint julep from last year, Woodford Reserve bourbon is offering 132 of the cocktails in gold cups, of which some are to be auctioned by Christie's. Each will be engraved with the name of a Derby-winning horse.

A select batch of Labrot & Graham Distillery's premium bourbon is being mixed with mint imported from Ireland, ice from the Bavarian Alps and organic sugar shipped in from western Australia. Last year's costly batch included ingredients brought in from the Arctic, Africa and the South Pole.

"We did try to make the ultimate mint julep, and that's something that we're striving for again this year," said Wayne Rose, Woodford Reserve's brand director. "It'll be a little bit different taste, but that's because the ingredients are a little bit different."

Of the 132 gold cups, 11 will feature Triple Crown winners, and carry three rubies - one each for the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Two more diamond-studded cups will be offered for Barbaro, last year's winner, and the first Derby champ, Aristides.

The jeweled cups are to be auctioned through Christies, with bidding to begin at noon (1600 GMT) on Tuesday while the others can be purchased at the company's special Derby julep Web site.

Rose said there is no limit to the price the jeweled cups can fetch in the online auction. Churchill Downs, home of the Derby, will funnel the proceeds from the sale of the cups to the New Jersey-based Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which helps retired horses and disabled jockeys.

"What's fun about this is it's a very emotional kind of thing," said Cathy Elkies, director of special collections at Christie's in New York. "People tend to bid on their favorite horse, and the reasons that they bid are very personal. It's always fun to see what price they're willing to pay for that."