Security ramped up for Belmont Stakes
NEW YORK (AP) - With thousands of fans filing into Belmont Park for Saturday's Belmont Stakes, there was a noticeable increase in security.
Metal railings were set up at the main entrance for racing fans to walk through single file. As they did, New York Racing Association officials conducted electronic wand searches and checked bags for prohibited items.
New security measures prohibit backpacks, cameras with detachable lenses, coolers and purses larger than 12 inches in diameter. Several fans had to leave coolers behind before being allowed to enter the track, according to one security officer.
"Whatever they have to do to make it safe is fine with me,'' said Elise Disimone of New York as she entered the track.
An out-of-towner was surprised to see such tight security.
"I've never been to any event in California where security was as tight as it is now,'' said Nate Wigle of Sacramento, Calif. "I'm with friends from Jersey and New York and they said `that's the way it is out here ... we're always on alert.'''
Umbrellas were prohibited, too, but after a 24-hour downpour that ended early Saturday morning, there was no rain in the forecast.
The extra security for the Belmont Stakes was put in place following the Boston Marathon bombings.
New York state, city and Nassau County police also were at the track, where a crowd of 40,000-50,000 was expected to watch Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness winner Oxbow and 12 others run in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
A FAIR FORECAST: The rain is over and there's a decent chance the Belmont Stakes will be run over a fast racetrack.
Following a day of rain Friday into early Saturday morning in the New York area, the weather forecast is calling for partly sunny skies, winds up to 14 mph and temperatures in the high 70s.
Glen Kozak, the vice president of facilities and racing surfaces for the New York Racing Association, says he's "pretty confident we'll be wet-fast'' by the Belmont post time of 6:36 p.m., and "if we get real lucky we'll be fast.''
A wet-fast track means the racing surface will still have moisture in the dirt. If the track is sealed before the race, the surface will look slick; if it's harrowed, it won't.
Just before the sixth race, the main track was upgraded to good; the course remained yielding.
Of the five turf races on the program, only one - the third race - has been moved to the main track.
OMAHA ANNIVERSARY: Saturday was the 78th anniversary of Omaha's Belmont victory that produced the third Triple Crown winner.
Omaha, the son of Gallant Fox, the 1930 Triple Crown winner, followed in his daddy's hoofprints with a 1 1/2-length win over Firethorn over a sloppy track in a driving rain storm. Shuffled back in the pack at in the early stages, Omaha rolled home with a strong rally down the center of the track to beat four rivals with Willie Saunders aboard for trainer "Sunny'' Jim Fitzsimmons.
It was the second Triple Crown sweep for New York banker William Woodward, who also owned Gallant Fox.
Amazingly, Omaha was not Horse of the Year for 1935. That honor went to Discovery, who beat Omaha later that season in the Brooklyn Handicap.
Omaha died at 25 and was buried at Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack's Circle of Champions in his namesake city. The track closed in 1995 and the land went to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. His grave, and the Circle of Champions, are now located next to a home economics and culinary arts building.
Students who fail class cooking assignments are told to "Give it to Omaha'' - in other words, throw it out the window.
Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner in 1919.
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