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Safety checks mean lines, delays for Saratoga Race Course fans

Summer in Saratoga

Safety checks mean lines, delays for Saratoga Race Course fans

NYRA official: Effort is aimed at keeping patrons safe
Safety checks mean lines, delays for Saratoga Race Course fans
John Harrington, with T&M Security Resources, leads patrons through security gates.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- People occasionally must stand in line to make a bet at Saratoga Race Course.

This summer, some have been standing in line just to enter the grounds. Security checkpoints -- with personnel wielding hand-held metal detectors -- have been conducted on two of the first three Saturdays of the meet.

"We had the magnetometers (metal detectors) on Jim Dandy Day (July 29) and Whitney Day (Aug. 5)," said Pat McKenna, director of communications for the New York Racing Association. "Our guests are likely to see enhanced security measures -- enhanced security features -- throughout the remainder of the 2017 meet."

That will mean more security checks, at which cars keys, cellphones and other metal objects will have to come out of pockets as the metal detectors are used.

McKenna refused to say when the devices would be used next. Upcoming Saturday cards that traditionally have drawn large crowds include the Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, Aug. 19, and the meet's signature event, the Travers Stakes for 3-year-olds, on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Saturday's feature is the Fourstardave, for horses 3 years old and older.

Track security personnel have inspected the contents of patrons' coolers for several years. This is the first year metal detectors have been used.

McKenna said track officials have been taking steps to reduce wait times and get people into the track as quickly as possible.

"Our fans have been patient these days, and we would urge them, as we always do, to build some additional travel time into their schedules whenever possible," McKenna said.

He added that such inspections are not uncommon in other parts of the country.

"Here in 2017, fans from across the Capital Region and across the country are well-accustomed to this process, whether you're going into the TU Center, Yankee Stadium, Albany Airport, JFK Airport," McKenna said.

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said he has not received any complaints about the new procedure, nor has he heard any gripes about the new policy during his time on track grounds.

"My sense would be most reasonable people understand in today's climate we're all better off making sure we are a little more patient in getting into places where there are large crowds and having security there to make sure that our time spent there is safe," Shimkus said. "I would hope people would understand that."

McKenna said fans can consider checking different gate entrances, where there may be shorter lines.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124, [email protected] or through Facebook.

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