“They let you see more and be part of the process,” said Chris Riley, a Louisville native who now lives in Atlanta. “But it will be next year that we will be able to judge that.”
Once the project is complete, the 150th Derby will offer standing room with terrace, exclusive seating, club space and even dining options. Twenty-one saddle stalls line either side of the tunnel that connects the paddock to the racetrack. Statues of inaugural Derby winner Aristides and jockey Pat Day, truck’s all-time leader in all major categories, will be moved elsewhere and will return to the paddock area once construction is complete. . The tradition of hanging signs above previous winners’ stalls continues as well, even if it’s a temporary setup.
A Louisville resident since 1993, Eustace Fernandez has played in at least 20 Derbies. Last year he met Brenda Brown from Frisco, Texas and Sheri Hightower from Denver. Both are longtime flight attendants and met on the rails in the paddock.
“She didn’t know she had a seat until Eustace told her,” Hightower said of Brown. “We’re always in the paddock.”
Fernandez said the “best in the house” vantage point is what they love about the new configuration. “It’s a great view of the horses. The three of us love it,” said Hightower.
It’s not just the paddock that’s new. A $90 million first-turn project has been announced, with his three-story structure basically reminiscent of those found in football stadiums. Replace the temporary seating area around the first bend and add thousands of indoor and covered seating and dining areas.