LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's the hottest ticket in town: a seat for the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. Derby tickets are always hard to find, but there's never a shortage of people trying to scam fans out of their money with bogus deals. A family from Texas drove 15 hours and paid thousands of dollars for Derby tickets, only to find they had been misled - even though they thought they took the proper precautions.
Heather Slaton and her mom, Cathy Watkins, began searching for tickets to the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in February. For Heather, it was a lifelong dream.
"I've always wanted to go ever since I was a little girl," Heather said.
The pair found what they thought was a deal on a website called Derby Deals. After searching the site, they found a deal they liked and called a phone number listed on the site. They spoke with Scott Davis, who sold them their dream tickets.
"He told me he was giving me a deal of a lifetime," said Cathy Watkins, "and it would be a trip of a lifetime."
The deal included five tickets to the Kentucky Oaks for $1,000, and five tickets to the Kentucky Derby for $4,000.
Cathy says they received their Oaks tickets in late April, but the Derby tickets never showed up.
"I called and said there must be a mistake. We received our Oaks tickets - they did not come in the form and manner you said they would, but knowing that mistakes can happen I want to know where the other tickets are."
Cathy says she called Davis repeatedly, but was given the runaround. He finally offered to meet her in Louisville three days before Derby to give her the tickets in person.
But after the 15-hour drive, Cathy and Heather were disappointed.
"I said: 'Please give us our tickets. We just want our tickets. We just want our trip to be happy, a good time,'" Cathy recalled. "And then finally he confessed that he didn't have the tickets."
Cathy says Davis offered her infield tickets, but she had paid for tickets near the finish line. So she wants her $4,000 refunded.
Davis agreed to a refund at first, but then changed his mind.
"I just don't think it's fair," Cathy said. "We paid hard earned money."
"All this time, it's been just one lie right after another," Heather said.
Cathy and Heather took the Oaks tickets they received to Churchill Downs, and track officials confirmed they were authentic - but they still need tickets to the Derby.
"I just don't know how they can continue to do this to people," Heather said.
Hoping to speak to Davis, we called the number listed on the website, but another man answered. He hung up when asked why his number was now listed as the contact on the website.
The receipt Watkins was provided with listed a address in Jeffersonville, Indiana, but when we checked it out, there was no sign of the business.
Churchill Downs officials say the track is not affiliated with Derby Deals, and advise racing fans to buy tickets through its official site.
Despite losing $4,000, Cathy and Heather were still hoping to find tickets to this year's Derby.