Mathea Kelley

Increased Security Set for Preakness Weekend

Updated policies for this year's classic weekend were announced April 30.

Largely in response to the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, the Maryland Jockey Club April 30 announced updated security policies for this year's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) programs May 17-18 at Pimlico Race Course.

In addition to an increased security police presence, new measures include the following:

For both the track building and infield:

No duffle bags

No laser lights or pointers

No cameras more than 6 inches in length

No cameras with detachable lenses

No coolers (unless cooler is a clear, see-through, plastic container no larger than 18 inches by 18 inches for the building or 28 inches long, 15 inches wide, and 17 inches high for the infield

Additional restrictions for the infield only:

No back packs

No beverages of any kind

MJC president Tom Chuckas, during a news conference at Pimlico, said the rationale behind the elimination of all laser lights or pointers was a combination of security measures and an effort to eliminate distractions for the bands performing during InfieldFest 2013. The limiting of the size and types of cameras permitted on the grounds, as with all other new security measures, is the result of consultation with and advice from various law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels, he said.

For the first time all patrons will be subject to an electronic wand search. Any weapons or prohibited items will be confiscated and discarded.

When asked if there had ever been any weapons-related incidents involving fans at Pimlico, Chuckas said: "To the best of my knowledge, the answer would be no." When asked whether drones were being used to collect security information, Chuckas had no comment.

Though duffle bags and back packs have been banned, tote bags and beach bags are still permitted. If obtaining a clear, see-through cooler proves difficult, clear plastic storage bins with lids were suggested. Also, any clear plastic or vinyl bag will be allowed.

Officials noted it's possible the increased security measures might cause delays. But even in years past fans in the thousands arrived in the early morning hours, ready to enter the gates well before the first post time.

Chuckas said patrons should "come early and give yourself plenty of time." He also emphasized the MJC is enacting the changes in the most "minimally inconvenient" way possible for "the safety and security of those attending Pimlico."

Preakness Stakes day is one of the largest single-day sporting events in the nation, with a record 121,309 in attendance last year. Pimlico's gated location helps significantly with the monitoring of any suspicious or dangerous activities, officials said, but in effort to safeguard everyone in attendance, Chuckas encouraged anyone who sees suspect activity to report it immediately:

"It's a joint effort to make sure that everyone has a secure and great day," he said.

While the tracks hosting Triple Crown races often confer and cooperate on a number of shared issues, the new security policies were not discussed with representatives of Churchill Downs or Belmont Park.