Preakness beefs up security, bans backpacks
Baltimore • Backpacks and duffel bags will be prohibited at the Preakness this year, part of a new security policy at Pimlico Race Course influenced by the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
For the first time, only clear coolers will be allowed in the building and the infield at the middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown. The new policy also forbids laser lights and pointers, along with cameras with lenses more than 6 inches in length.
In previous years, backpacks and duffel bags were allowed in the vastly populated infield. Duffel bags were permitted in the building and the grandstand, but now duffel bags and backpacks are forbidden on the entire premises. The rule applies to fans, employees and vendors.
The security measures will be in effect on the day of the Preakness, May 18, and Black-Eyed Susan day, May 17. More than 100,000 fans have attended the Preakness in 10 of the last 12 years, including a record 121,309 last year.
The Maryland Jockey Club instituted the policy after consulting with several federal and local agencies, including Homeland Security and the FBI.
"We do a security plan starting in October every year," Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, with what transpired in Boston, I met with more than 50 people a week ago and ... based on the Boston tragedy, we decided to make some modifications. Backpacks were one of them."
The bombs set at the Boston Marathon on April 15 were contained in backpacks.
"We have upped the level of security to make sure nothing like that happens here," Chuckas said.
He added that there would be increased security personnel at Pimlico on both days, although he hopes it will be simpler to monitor a race track than a marathon.
"There are some advantages. In the Boston Marathon, there's 25 miles of space they have to cover," Chuckas said. "It's a little easier here at Pimlico, but security will need to be on its toes."
Over the years, Pimlico has tightened the security measures for an infield that once featured empty kegs and flying beer cans. Tents, balls, fireworks and grills were long ago phased out, and in 2009, the track forbid fans to bring their own beverages including water