05/07/2009 11:00PM

Breeders' Cup adjusts ticket prices, policies

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Breeders' Cup has overhauled its ticketing policy to make it cheaper and easier to buy tickets for the two-day event, scheduled for Santa Anita Park on Nov. 6-7.

The overhaul includes the introduction of online ticketing to replace a convoluted system that relied in part on mailed applications. In addition, Breeders' Cup has dropped a policy that required buyers to purchase seats for both days of the event and slashed prices for one-day tickets as much as 60 percent when compared to last year. Prices for premium seats - which represent about 4,000 of the 21,000 seats at Santa Anita - are being cut by 30 percent.

Greg Avioli, president of Breeders' Cup, said the organization made the overhaul in recognition of buyers' complaints last year and the organization's concern that its previous pricing model did not reflect the current state of the market for sporting events. Many sports are making significant cuts to the prices of their premium seats as corporate-expense accounts have shrunk in the midst of the recession.

"We needed to price the Breeders' Cup so that it would be an affordable event in 2009," Avioli said. "It's pretty clear looking at the numbers that pricing for all sporting events is being adjusted."

Tickets will go on sale online and through a call center on May 15 for individuals who have nominated foals to the Breeders' Cup. The general public will be allowed to purchase tickets beginning June 5. As in other online ticketing models, seats will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Nominators to the Breeders' Cup were previously required to fill out applications stating their first three preferences for seats. Breeders' Cup staff would then review those individual requests and create tiers based on the amount of money the nominator had contributed to the program, along with the number of years the nominator had been paying fees. After that, Breeders' Cup would mail back the application asking the nominator to either accept or turn down the available seats.

"It was really quite anachronistic," Avioli said.

Nominators who do not purchase tickets by June 5 will not have any special preference when buying tickets after that date, the organization said.

Ticket prices for seats for the Friday card will start at $40. Ticket prices for Saturday card will start at $55. Last year, buyers were required to purchase tickets for both days, starting at $200. The policy was widely criticized by racing fans.

General admission will still be available for walk-up patrons, but Breeders' Cup has yet to determine the price for those tickets, Avioli said. The price for general admission will be determined by the time tickets go on sale to the general public on June 5.

Last year, attendance for the Saturday card at Santa Anita was 55,331. Attendance for the Friday card was 31,527.

The highest-priced seats at Santa Anita last year were in the Frontrunners restaurant, at $1,250. Those tickets will now be priced at just less than $1,000, Avioli said, but will no longer include food and beverage.