KENTUCKY DERBY TICKETS: FORCE MAJEURE

Postponement of the 2020 Kentucky Derby from May to September provoked interest from me and numerous other ticket holders pertaining to what our legal rights are with respect to refunds.  The answer depends on who you do business with.

Customers for Kentucky Derby tickets either buy directly from Churchill Downs or through ticket brokers that run secondary markets.  When the coronavirus began to affect businesses and events of all varieties, ticket holders at some events, such as a music festival in Austin, Texas, found to their dismay that they were not going to receive refunds under the provisions they agreed to called force majeure.

Investopedia states that “Force majeure refers to a clause that is included in contracts to remove liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations.”

Churchill Downs has a very specific force majeure policy that gives the company wide latitude and basically precludes ticket refunds for unforeseeable developments like the coronavirus.  It reads in part:

“The date and time of any racing event is subject to change based on, among other things, force majeure events.  No refunds or exchanges will be permitted based on such scheduling changes.

Due to various weather situations, a race may be cancelled or postponed for the safety of the guests, jockeys, and horses.  All situations are unique, including force majeure, in that the cancellation policy is subject to change without notice.”

Further, ticket purchasers automatically agree to arbitration if they initiate a dispute.

A popular and reputable online ticket broker (intentionally not identified by name here) that specializes in Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets has a very restrictive refund policy that is spelled out on its website in bold-faced capital letters:

ALL SALES ARE FINAL. WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WEATHER RELATED EVENTS, STRIKES OR OTHER LABOR DISTURBANCES, LOSS OF POWER, FIRE, ACTS OF GOD, HEALTH CRISIS, ACTS OF TERRORISM OR ANY OTHER CAUSE BEYOND OUR REASONABLE CONTROL THAT COULD CANCEL, MODIFY OR RESULT IN THE RESCHEDULING OF THIS EVENT.

By contrast, StubHub has a very customer-friendly policy:

“Our policy is to provide a full refund with fees if an event is canceled.  In addition, given the current environment, if an event is canceled, customers can opt to receive a StubHub coupon valued at 120% of the original purchase. This coupon can be applied toward a future event of their choosing.”

When buying tickets to any event in advance, the age-old caveat “to read the fine print” is sound advice.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

OFF TOPIC: COPING DURING A PANDEMIC

The coronavirus has disrupted lives and thrown the global economy into a tailspin.  A large portion of the world’s current inhabitants have never experienced such a life-changing pandemic.  However, most older folks, those born before 1955, can remember firsthand what it is like to live with the very real possibility of a deadly virus striking.  Polio, also known as “infantile paralysis,” was a dreaded plague in their early years and caused widespread trepidation and heartbreak.

In 1955, the first polio vaccine was approved and made available in the United States.  This particular vaccine was administered by injection.  In 1961, an oral vaccine came into commercial use.

Until 1955, polio had been a killer from the beginnings of civilization.  For instance, an Egyptian carving from about 1400 BC shows a young man with a deformity like one often caused by polio.  In the early 1900s, it reached epidemic proportions in the most economically and medically advanced countries.  Future U. S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 and was paralyzed from the waist down.

My childhood recollections from the early 1950s are still vivid.  Seeing or hearing of friends and acquaintances in iron lungs and others who died from polio was a usual part of life.  People went about their daily lives but became much more concerned in the summers when polio was at its most dangerous.

Every summer, polio instilled justifiable fear into parents with young children.  When the virus struck a community hard, movie theaters and swimming pools were closed as a precaution.  I recall my parents on an automobile trip taking a circuitous route in order to avoid a town with a high number of polio cases.  In a time when most cars did not have air conditioning, keeping windows up in the summer to guard against the polio virus was an unpleasant experience. 

The coronavirus is creating the same kind of societal dread that polio once did.  A difference is that people in the era before the polio vaccine were subjected to fear every summer.  Folks knew that they had no protection against the killer other than a prudent reliance on what today is being referred to as self-distancing.

The lesson from those of us who routinely lived with the threat of polio is to be cautious and strictly follow health protocols, but, at the same time, do not let a virus be the focal point of your existence.  The virus shall pass.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

A MORE SELECT KENTUCKY FIELD AND A WEAKENED TRAVERS FIELD IN 2020

Presently, the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday September 5, 2020 and the Travers Stakes at Saratoga is to be held on Saturday August 29, 2020.  In addition, the 2020 Saratoga meet won’t end until Labor Day on September 7.  Since both the Travers and the Kentucky Derby are contested at 1 ¼ miles and are only a week apart, the likely outcome is that the 2020 Kentucky Derby will be a showdown of the best 3-year-olds and the 2020 Travers will attract a field that is a cut below the top horses.

It could very well turn out that the Kentucky Derby will have a smaller field than its usual 20 entries.  By September, the preeminent 3-year-olds will have been confirmed through a summer of Grade I races and their connections will opt for the Kentucky Derby.  By contrast, many owners and trainers of second-tier colts and geldings will choose to send their charges to the prestigious Travers, with a better possibility than normal of notching a Grade I win and part of a large purse.  Some owners of the kind of third-level horses that traditionally are run in the Kentucky Derby but have no realistic chance to win are likely to avoid both the Kentucky Derby and the Travers, attracted by the opportunity to win other lucrative races in August and September that won’t draw the leading 3-year-olds.

The situation would change if, for instance, the Belmont and even the Travers were to be rescheduled.  The Preakness has already been postponed to September and the Belmont is unsure.

Assume that NYRA moved the Travers to early in its meet, towards the end of July.  This would open up the possibility that a horse could compete in the Travers and then go on to the Kentucky Derby five or six weeks later.

Rarely do 3-year-olds come into the Kentucky Derby having run in a 1 ¼ mile race.  This year the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes is on schedule to precede the Kentucky Derby and, if it does, some horses will run in both races.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business