The first Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland have been assumed to be a hot ticket, so much so that the 50,000 or so tickets went on sale three months early, in March rather than in June.
Most of the prime seating — such as in the grandstand and clubhouse, the sales pavilion and in a temporary chalet overlooking the track's sycamore-shaded paddock — sold out quickly for the October event.
But it appears that fans aren't quite so eager for spots that won't allow any possibility of seeing a racehorse in person.
Ticket sales for the Keene Barn and the Keene land Entertainment Center on a hill away from the track have been decidedly slower — only about 20 percent of the seats for Saturday, the main championship day, have sold.
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According to the Breeders' Cup ticket website, fewer than 100 seats out of 416 appear to be purchased for the Oct. 31 championships. Even fewer have sold for Friday, the first day of the championships.
Breeders' Cup COO Bob Elliston said last week that he isn't worried about the unsold seats, which he expects will sell after Labor Day.
"Those are remote seating, not trackside, with no access. We're not surprised at this point that that inventory hasn't sold out," Elliston said. "In the history of the Breeders' Cup, we've not really had remote seating before. ... Many folks probably didn't realize that the track-facing seats would go as quickly as they did."
Another seating option that does provide a great view of the racing and horses — the trackside chalets — also has unsold seats, priced at about $1,250 each for two-day tickets, according to the website.
Of the 4,100 available seats, about 400 are left, and that number is shrinking fast with the Triple Crown win by American Pharoah, Elliston said.
The Breeders' Cup had a flurry of sales of high-priced corporate space in the week after the Belmont, which took place this month. Everybody, it seems, wants a chance to see the new Triple Crown winner race in the Breeders' Cup Classic, if he comes.
The first section of two-tiered chalets is sold, and only three of 37 bays — in the third tier of the second set of chalets — are left, Elliston said. Those are expected to go well before the championships.
The Bourbon Lounge, tucked away on the turn, is sold out for Saturday but not for Friday.
Elliston said he still expects the Breeders' Cup will sell out, but he added that even if there are a few hundred unsold seats at the track it shouldn't hurt Keeneland's chances of landing the races again.
"They've been so successful on so many fronts, like community engagement," Elliston said, that Lexington's first Breeders' Cup should be a hit. Elliston recently helped announce the lineup of events for part of the "community engagement" — the Breeders' Cup Festival, which will be put on around the city in conjunction with the races.
The festival will have music and food at the Cheapside Pavilion downtown, including a big screen on which to watch the races, and terminals for betting.
The Red Mile harness track, which is opening a new gambling parlor off Broadway, also will host the Breeders' Cup Bash, a spillover party for watching and wagering.
But another seating location, on the other side of Keeneland, at the Thoroughbred Club of America, is on hold. Last fall, Keeneland said that the Thoroughbred Club would be adding tent seating for 1,111 and bar space for 689 people in addition to room in the club's regular dining room.
The club's dining room seats sold out immediately, Elliston said, but they decided to hold off on adding the extra seating because the venue is so similar to the Keeneland Entertainment Center.
"If we sell out all the Entertainment Center after Labor Day, and we still have time to put up more tents, we would consider (the Thoroughbred Club,)" he said. "At this moment we would rather sell out the Entertainment Center."
The Entertainment Center holds one advantage: it's one of the few ticketed spots at Keeneland with available parking. All the regular parking is spoken for, and about 1,000 spots in the Meadow — a tailgating area on the Keeneland ground — are sold already, Elliston said.
A plan for where patrons can park and catch shuttles to the track is expected to be announced in July, he said.
From the beginning, Keeneland has said it's expected that more fans will want to come to the Breeders' Cup than can be accommodated, particularly in normal on-track venues like the grandstand, which has a capacity of only 8,500. On major racing days like the Blue Grass Stakes in April, when crowds swell to nearly 40,000, it can be hard to find a place to sit, eat, bet or go to the bathroom without waiting in a long line.
So Keeneland announced that it would offer thousands of tailgating tickets for the Hill, a popular free venue on the Keeneland grounds during the regular race meet and unique for the Breeders' Cup. About a quarter of the 3,000 tailgating spots available have sold, Elliston said.
"We've sold for Saturday spots for 700 cars," he said. The rest most likely will sell this fall, he said.
Day-of ticket sales aren't planned because that would slow down the traffic into the track, Elliston said.
"If the weather's nice, there's always a big crowd on the Hill. Selling 700 already tells me there will be significant demand," Elliston said. "We anticipate it will be all gone."