THE KENTUCKY DERBY AFTER BOSTON

The Boston Marathon terrorist bombings on Patriots Day are a painful reminder of just how vulnerable we are as a society to the schemes of wicked madmen who want to kill and maim unsuspecting and innocent people. Protecting runners and spectators over a 26.2 mile course along the streets of a major city is difficult at best, primarily because there are no entrances where screening can take place.

What happened in Boston vividly demonstrated that attending any public event, with a sizeable crowd, comes with the risks of injury and death.

The next extravaganzas in the United States are the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 and the Kentucky Derby on May 4. In addition to the actual races, the preceding Kentucky Derby Festival encompasses numerous well-attended affairs, including the Kentucky Derby Parade, which stretches out over a couple of miles.

I regularly attend NFL games that draw about 75,000 people. Everyone entering the stadium is subjected to an inspection of their items, such as coats, backpacks and purses, and people’s bodies are given a cursory pat down. Metal detectors are also employed.

A similar procedure will no doubt be used in Louisville for the Oaks and Derby and normal security measures will be ratcheted up. Yet the task will be more arduous than at an NFL game.

In the first place, the crowds at Churchill Downs will be much larger. Last year, the Oaks on Friday drew 113,000 spectators and the Derby on Saturday attracted 165,000. Second, Churchill Downs covers more acreage than typical football stadiums and thus keeping out nefarious intruders is challenging. Third, items brought in by the large and boisterous infield contingent at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, such as coolers and backpacks, will have to be individually examined or banned. Finally, to do a thorough job, racetrack security must, without exception, routinely screen numerous licensed backside workers, Churchill Downs employees, and vehicles entering the premises.

A national poll conducted the day after the Boston Marathon bombing found that the predominant emotion felt by Americans over the incident was not fear, but rather, anger. Far from being intimidated by terrorism, the vast majority of Americans seem determined to go about their business, regardless of the menace posed by conniving and deranged murderers.

Come Kentucky Derby weekend, experienced and dedicated law enforcement personnel from Louisville, the state police, and the federal government, along with units of the battle-tested Army National Guard, will be forewarned and ready. Couple that preparation with the resolve of Americans to carry on in spite of potential harm… and the show will proceed as planned, for the 139th time, with enthusiastic throngs taking in one of the grandest spectacles in sports.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

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