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Just asking for Derby tickets will cost $50

LOUISVILLE — Churchill Downs is charging $50 to apply for tickets to the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Oaks, with track officials saying the new procedure will help ensure that everyone has a chance at landing a seat.

Track spokesman Darren Rogers told The Courier-Journal that up to 20,000 seats will be available in a first-come, first-serve process, ranging in cost from $196 to $1,076 for a two-day package that includes the Oaks. Many are in the grandstand or into the first turn.

The remainder of the approximately 54,000 seats will be sold to the owners of personal seat licenses, season box-holders, Turf Club members, select sponsors, the track's biggest bettors, Derby and Oaks horsemen and select employees.

Under the new system, fans sign up at Churchilldowns.com/tickets to start the process.

On Nov. 7, they will receive an email that includes a seating-preference request form. Applicants can list up to 10 locations in order of preference. In addition, they can agree to pay 20 percent more for the tickets to go to the head of the line.

The Courier-Journal reported that everyone applying for tickets will have to provide a $100 deposit using a credit card. Of that amount, $50 will be credited toward the tickets' costs if a person gets them, the paper reported. If they don't get them, $50 will be refunded.

The process of allocating Kentucky Derby tickets has been secret for years. Fans were advised to write letters every year requesting tickets while also telling a little bit about themselves because the track sought geographic diversity.

Longtime racing fan Danita Conte of Louisville, who has purchased Derby tickets, said she won't pay the $50 charge and won't apply for tickets.

"It's not about being fair to the fans," she wrote in an email, "... $50, in this economy. Really?"

Craig Nall of Calhoun wrote that he thought the new process could be a benefit for fans who really want tickets.

"This system might actually increase the chance of getting tickets for those people willing to pay," he wrote.