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Saturday, August 30, 2014
Stakes attendance dips amid amped security

The 145th Belmont Stakes came and went without incident last Saturday and, fortunately, the only evident “malice” was in the name of the underdog winner, Palace Malice. The winning horse’s performance was witnessed live by the smallest crowd for the third leg of the Triple Crown in three years — with nearly 45 percent fewer attendees than last year and nearly 15 percent fewer than in 2011.

The lack of a Triple Crown contender no doubt affected turnout. Just over 47,500 fans attended the Belmont Stakes this year. Nearly 86,000 attended last year, when I’ll Have Another ran the Stakes coming off victories in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and more than 55,000 attended in 2011, when, like this year, no Triple Crown winner was possible.

Security was significantly increased on Saturday, as new protocols were implemented with the Boston Marathon bombings of April still fresh in people’s minds. On June 6, County Executive Ed Mangano had announced that for the first time, backpacks, coolers, luggage and duffel bags would be prohibited from the track. The only food items allowed were those in see-through plastic containers or bags. Police officers were controlling traffic and limiting incoming vehicles. Use of public transportation had been encouraged and Belmont Park workers equipped with metal detectors were checking bags.

Mangano had also announced his expectations that the Stakes would provide all of Nassau County with an economic boost. “The race provides Nassau County with a major boon to the local economy,” Mangano said at the Garden City Hotel two days before the race. “This Saturday, millions of people around the world will be watching us once again. The Belmont Stakes are always a great start to Nassau County’s summer tourism season.”

First-timers at the race came from neighboring towns and neighboring states. This was the first Belmont Stakes for Queens resident and attorney Parag Parekh, 27, who ended up having a good time after deciding to attend the event with friends. Parekh was at the earlier races and said that the energy level was high in spite of the lower turnout.

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