Most of the comments heard about the host track for this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships revolve around a decision to limit attendance to 45,000 and prohibit the sale of general admission tickets.
The Blood-Horse has received numerous letters crying "foul" about this new arrangement. Some have complained about lack of access to the paddock area or grandstand from the thousands of temporary seats now being constructed at the top of the stretch and on the clubhouse turn. Others want to be able to walk around Arlington and don't care if they have a seat.
The area around the walking ring of most tracks is racing's version of a melting pot. Here you'll see millionaire owners attired in designer suits and dresses mixing with the jeans and T-shirt crowd. One common thread among them is the bond between horses and humans that has no social or economic restrictions.
You can't blame any of the fans for wanting to have the same opportunity on racing's biggest day that they have any other time of year. In fact, when the Breeders' Cup was created, it was decided ticket prices should be the same as the host track charged for any other day of racing. That practice, long since changed, would be folly today. The top ticket price for this year's Breeders' Cup is $285, and the lowest price for a seat that provides access to the paddock and main building is $100.
Not surprisingly, all of the tickets with paddock and building access quickly sold out. One of the reasons Arlington's Richard Duchossois balked at hosting a Breeders' Cup since he rebuilt the track in 1989 was a fear the track simply wasn't big enough to handle crowds of 40,000-plus. Even with temporary box seats being added to the track apron, supply will not meet demand, and the Arlington management team convinced Breeders' Cup officials to put restrictions in place so that betting and concession lines will be manageable.
Many of the temporary stadium seats along the clubhouse turn already have been installed, and patrons sitting there will have a bird's eye view of the stretch-run, albeit one that is head-on. Large-screen monitors will be strategically placed in the infield for those fans, whose $55 tickets will not give them access to the main building or paddock area.
Installation of temporary seats at the top of the stretch was put on hold until after the Labor Day weekend, so the area could be used for the popular family days Arlington offers on Sundays. However, many of the trees that provided shade for those families were gone by Labor Day in preparation for the temporary seats, which are priced at $60. Fans in those seats also will not have access to the main building or paddock, though large screen monitors will provide them with betting information and video coverage of the day.
Both the clubhouse and homestretch seats are sold out, although tickets for another section of temporary seats located near the quarter pole and priced at $45 are still available.
Parking will be restricted, too. Much of the existing parking lot will be dedicated to service areas for the temporary seats, so a majority of ticket holders will be forced to park at remote lots and shuttle to Arlington via motor coach. It's the same type of arrangement, for example, to which fans at golf tournaments have become accustomed.
In fact, a number of the policies for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are beginning to resemble those at other major sporting events. Choice seats and hospitality areas are allotted to sponsors. Ticket prices are commensurate with demand. Access to certain areas is limited.
That's a good thing, even if it means some people will be unhappy. The Breeders' Cup should be a tough ticket.