11/21/2008 12:00AM

Derby, Oaks ticket prices frozen for 2009

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs Inc. officials announced Friday at a media briefing that prices for the vast majority of tickets to the 135th Kentucky Derby and Oaks next May will be frozen while also announcing a more immediate variation to the raffle-style Derby ticket sales that have been conducted the last two years.

CDI president Bob Evans cited the sagging economy as a primary reason in implementing the price freeze, which affects all ticketing except for previously contracted price increases in the personal seat license program and in some luxury suites and Marquee Village units.

In addition, Churchill said a raffle for the right to purchase 1,000 Derby seats will be conducted during the final six days of the current fall race meet. In 2007 and 2008, those raffles were conducted much closer to the Derby. Churchill offers the raffles as a means for people who normally are not able to buy Derby tickets to do so.

Evans said the impetus behind the price freeze is mostly the severe financial crisis that is crippling the economies of the United States and most of the world, but also because CDI has enjoyed a relatively good year "and this was a good opportunity for us to give back." He cited horsemen and local businesses as being prime examples of those who figure to benefit from the freeze.

Derby ticket prices range from $40 for general admission, to $88 for bleacher seats, to $693 for Millionaire's Row seating, according to a track release.

As for the raffle, fans will be limited to one registration per racing day, starting Saturday and running through the conclusion of the meet on Nov. 29. Admission to the track is not required, and entry stations outside Gates 10 and 17 will be available to those not attending the races. A total of 500 pairs, or 1,000 tickets in all, will be made available, with names drawn at a designated time each day. One need not be present to win. Entries must be received by 1:35 p.m. Eastern, and all drawings are independent of each other.

Derby tickets being made available through the drawings range in price from $88 to $207 (or $176 to $414 per pair). Tickets will be in the following seating areas: 111, 112, 113, 114, 118, 120, 122, 222, 223, 224, and 225.

* In other business, Evans said wagering handle at the current fall meet at Churchill and at other company-owned tracks, Calder and Fair Grounds, has been "pretty soft." The company has a policy of not releasing handle and attendance figures at its tracks, but Evans, in response to questioning, said the current business environment "is pretty tough out there."