Belmont Starters Face New Security Protocol

By Lenny Shulman and Evan Hammonds
Under the new raceday security protocol in effect at Belmont Park, all starters for the 137th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) must be on the Belmont backstretch no later than noon Friday. At that time, security officers will be in place to watch each entrant.

The Belmont starters will move to a special security barn, Barn 8, on the backstretch no later than 11 a.m. Saturday. That facility includes a walking ring and grazing area.

Under the Belmont protocol, milkshake testing is done on a sample of horses. In addition, only licensed personnel -- trainers, grooms, and hotwalkers -- are allowed to enter the security barn. New York Racing Association veterinarians will administer all Lasix shots, and private vets cannot enter the barn unless a horse is sick.

"We met with the vets and they have cooperated, as has the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association," said NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader. "The only complaint has been that extra help is needed, but what price integrity?"

A number of Belmont Stakes trainers weighed in with their thoughts on the procedure.

"Anytime that they're going to have security and increase the integrity of racing in the public eye, it is a good thing," said Tim Ritchey, trainer of Preakness (gr. I) winner and Belmont morning-line favorite Afleet Alex. "I have no problem with it at all. If the public has more of a perception that everything is on a level field and everybody is doing everything by the rules, I think that can only help the industry. I'm 100% for it.

"It's not a problem for my horse. He could stand in the grandstand for six hours. He's just very easy-going. He doesn't get upset about anything."

"You have to do what you have to do," said trainer Dale Romans, who will send out Nolan's Cat. "It's an inconvenience, but everybody's equal.

"I don't think there is a problem in racing. I don't think there is near the number of cheaters everybody says there is. When they do this for a year or so, you'll see the same people are winning the same races. But it's good to show the public. If there is a perception of cheating, then let's go and prove the fact there's not cheating going on."

"I don't particularly like the detention barn," said John Shirreffs, trainer of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo. "It's much more comfortable to run out of your own stall, but those are the rules and we follow the rules. Everybody's doing it and that's fair."