Amy Patterson
Vice President, Events & Derby Operations | Churchill Downs Racetrack

Planning the 150th Kentucky Derby Grade 1 stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds with a winning purse of $5 million — the richest in history — is no time to gamble. It’s a high stakes day for Amy Patterson, vice president of events and derby operations, and her team.

The race is called the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” but Patterson has spent the last two years preparing. Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, has undergone a $200 million redevelopment project that closed the track’s primary gate for a year.

“We had to reimagine how we would operate and communicate with our teams and our guests while the central point of our facility was under construction,” said Patterson. “We cannot wait to open doors on April 27 and show the world what we have been up to over the last two years.”

A new paddock will provide guests with a great view of the famous Twin Spires from the fan plaza and main gate. It’s the last phase of the renovation project, which included construction of the Homestretch Club, which debuted during Kentucky Derby Week in 2022, and the First Turn Experience, which opened for Derby Week in 2023.

“As we head into the final stretch of planning for a historic Kentucky Derby 150, I am most excited about having a chance to take a deep breath and reflect on the successes our incredible team has pulled off during these past three years,” Patterson said.

The 150th Kentucky Derby, which will be held May 4, combines sports, fashion and distinctive food and beverage into a 12-hour event for 150,000 spectators, but activities start a week before the Run for the Roses with 350,000 spectators over eight days of horse racing and lead-up events.

“Most venues have an entire season to work out the kinks before hosting the championship game,” Patterson said. “We start our season hosting one of the most iconic events in sports.”

Patterson has a lot of female support. “I am surrounded by women here at Churchill Downs Racetrack that lead our sales, marketing, food and beverage and venue operations efforts, and our pipeline of young superstars continues to grow,” she said.

She’s benefited from strong mentors and routinely passes their advice along to the team, including the importance of treating every employee exactly as you want them to treat your best customers, which she learned from Carl Adkins, general manager of the Georgia Dome for 20 years.

“I tell my young team members that nothing is owed or will be handed to them,” Patterson said. “Sometimes, the best move you can take in your career is a step backwards to gain new experiences and perspective. Celebrate and learn from your fumbles because that is where the best training comes from. Never expect or ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself.”


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