Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-04-17 02:54:16 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After 139 years and nine million dollars, there are some huge changes at Churchill Downs. Just 70 days remain until the hats and horses converge underneath the iconic twin spires at Churchill Downs.
"We want to make some things around here at Churchill Downs unique experiences," says Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs Marketing Director.
Walk through Gate 1 and it's the wide open space that will now catch your eye. The Derby Paddock Pavilion has been removed freeing up 22,000 square feet of extra room.
"To the general admission customer on Oaks and Derby Day in particular will be able to move around freely, its much more spacious and it also beautifies the Paddock," says Rogers.
Around the first turn, new stadium style seats will replace the Infield Club. Section 110 will feature seats with cup holders and will offer unlimited food and drink included in the ticket price.
For celebrities and big spenders, the track is building what's called, The Mansion. Churchill would not let WDRB cameras get a look at the construction saying it won't be shown off until the exclusive area is finished.
The mansion has a view-- right on the finish line on the 6th floor of the clubhouse.
Only 320 tickets starting at $7,00 a piece are available and most are already sold out.
But when it comes to this year's Derby, the biggest change of all has nothing to with the track. To qualify for Derby, instead of money earned, thoroughbreds will be judged on a points system.
"Trying to get fans excited earlier in the process is why they switched to point system," says Rogers.
He makes the comparison to college basketball describing the next ten weeks as horse racing's version of March Madness. It's that's fitting because of who's 3 year old-could be a Derby contender.
"Rick Pitino, has a very salty horse. He's going to run in the San Felipe his name is Goldencents. He's tied in the lead in the point standings with Shanghai Bobby at 24 points," says Rogers.
The top 20 point earners get a spot in the starting gate Saturday May 4th.
The first Derby qualifying races under the new point system run Saturday. There are two: The Fountain of Youth runs at Gulfstream Park in Florida and the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.