“They’ve made it so you can see more and be a part of the process,” said the Louisville native who now lives in Atlanta and has been to more than 40 derbies. “But we can decide that next year.”
Once the project is complete, for the 150th derby, it will offer terraced standing room views, premium seating, club seats and dining options. Twenty-one harness stalls line the tunnel connecting the racetrack. Statues of Aristides, the first Derby winner, and Jockey Pat Day, the track’s all-time leader in every major category, will be relocated and returned to the paddock once construction is complete. The tradition of hanging a sign above the previous winner’s stall will continue even with the temporary setup.
Eustace Fernandez, who has lived in Louisville since 1993, has been to at least 20 derbies. Last year, he met Brenda Brown of Frisco, Texas, and Sherry Hightower of Denver, both longtime flight attendants. They texted almost every week since then and returned on Friday.
“She didn’t know she had seats until Eustace told her,” Hightower said of Brown. “We’re always in the paddock.”
Vantage Point — “The best at home,” Fernandez said — is what they love about the new configuration. “It’s a great show of horses, and that’s what all three of us love,” Hightower said.
And it’s not just the paddock that has a new look. A $90 million first turnaround plan, essentially a three-story structure reminiscent of what you’d find in a football stadium, is being unveiled. It replaces a temporary seating area around the first turn and adds thousands of indoor and covered seats and a dining area.