(Commemorative bricks, created from the old ones that used to pave the old paddock area, were on hand as special gifts to those that attended the “Topping Off” Ceremony / Photos by Gene McLean)

Editor’s Note:

It is still a major project that is a project.

It is still a long ways from being in the short rows.

It is a still a stilt village of iron and steel. For now.

Far from done, for now. But not far from being ready, for the future 150th Kentucky Derby that now looms just months away.

Come Spring Time of 2024, the new paddock will be a sight to behold.

This Wednesday of 2023, the new paddock was a sight on hold.

The new paddock at Churchill Downs got its’ last structural beam set in place on Wednesday. It was a time to celebrate. It was a time to recognize. It was a time to cheer and whistle.

As the tether was strapped to the last beam and raised from the ground, a tiny evergreen tree was taped to the top — a ritual to honor the trees and a long-standing gift to the construction Gods who oversee the most massive and magnificent of new buildings.

As the beam took flight and headed to its’ final destination, Churchill Downs’ bugler Steve Buttleman began to play the country’s 2nd most popular, historic and remembered song:

My Old Kentucky Home.

In this case, it was a perfect song to play. Because, in this case, the historic Churchill Downs track — some 170-plus years in the making — was getting a “new” Kentucky Home, too.

The new paddock is starting to look like a new paddock.

The new paddock — at a cost of over $250 million — is beginning to look like the magnificent new structure that it soon and surely will be.

The new paddock — spanning 7 acres and honoring a clear and massive view of the traditional Twin Spires — is now heading into the home stretch of the construction phase.

True, the new paddock at Churchill Downs got its’ last structural beam set in place on Wednesday. And, truthfully, it was a time to celebrate. It was a time to recognize. It was a time to cheer and whistle.

There was a team of architects and construction workers on hand to celebrate and salute.

There was a team of state and local officials on hand to recognize, speak and salute, led by State Senator Julie Raque Adams and Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg.

There was a team of Churchill Downs’ best, most loyal and most brilliant leaders to orchestrate, handshake and salute, led by Churchill Downs, Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen; Churchill Downs, Inc. President and COO Bill Mudd; Churchill Downs Track President Mike Anderson; Churchill Downs Track Vice President Mike Ziegler.

There was a horde of onlookers there, too. To gawk. To cheer. To look on. In amazement.

All the while, though, the work on the new, 7-acre — yep, 7-acre — new paddock only paused for a second. Quickly, and again, the dust began to rise. Pings ponged. Men and women in hard hats were hard at work. Cranes lifted tons of steel and placed each lego piece precisely into the place it belonged.

Work still to do.

And, the work went on.

Here’s a few looks at what will soon be an amazing looking facility that will honor the past and present a beautiful future.