If walls could talk, this unassuming house on Central Avenue, whose view from the porch perfectly frames Churchill Downs’s iconic Twin Spires, would have plenty of stories to tell.
The house, once owned by a member of the indie rock band Pavement, Bob Nastanovich, is known for its all-day (and night) parties. Rockers and professional athletes regularly rub elbows with trainers and jockeys and racegoers who happen to pass by on the way to the gate (and sometimes never leave).
The house is now owned by the Louisville-based horse trainer Grant Forster, who lives there full time and carries on the Derby party tradition. There are multiple betting pools, chalkboards with odds, three TVs tuned to the races and racing memorabilia and inside jokes galore. There’s also crawfish imported from Louisiana, where Forster also trains, and a Zydeco band on Derby night.
Lifelong friendships have been built because of this house. “These guys are like family to me,” said Forster, who grew up in a prominent Canadian horse racing family.
One regular, Tchalla Greene, parked at a house a few doors down for his first Derby, in 2013. He stumbled upon the party and hasn’t missed a Derby, or house party, since (save for last year because of the pandemic).
Another, Jamie Zoeller, was a Pavement superfan. He met Nastanovich at a bar in Chicago in the ’90s, and Nastanovich told him about his Derby house. Nastanovich (now a chart caller at Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona, Iowa) wrote down the address on a bar napkin, and Zoeller carried it around in his wallet until one day he made it, in 1999. He also comes back year after year.
Tim and Beth Clauss of St. Louis have a combined 50 Derbies under their belts. They refused to miss the 2020 race, even though fans were not allowed inside Churchill Downs. They sat on the porch as peaceful protests of the police killing of Breonna Taylor passed in front of the house.
“We love the Kentucky Derby, this is what we live for,” Beth Clauss said. “It’s such a special place to many folks, people come from all over the world to come to this party.”
It all made for a very memorable Derby, but perhaps not the most memorable for Tim Clauss. In 2005, on Oaks day, he sold his tickets for the weekend and put the money in the glove compartment of his car parked in the back yard. He left the house to watch a race from the backside of the track and shortly after received a call, “Tim, you better get back, your car is on fire.”