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KY. Derby Steps Up Security After Boston Bombings

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BOSTON, MA. (WHDH) – The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby kicks off tomorrow at Churchill Downs.

But amid the mint juleps and flashy fashions, increased security.

More than 150-thousand spectators are expected at one of the nation’s top horse races.

And Pamela Brown reports law enforcement agencies aren’t taking any chances with Boston fresh in everyone’s mind.

It’s one of horse racing’s biggest events.

The first of the Triple Crown races.

A place to see and be seen.

But this year’s Kentucky Derby is happening just weeks after the Boston bombings.

Security at Churchill Downs now understandably tightened.

John Asher, Churchill Downs: “The marathon bombing occurred and we were on the phone immediately with our law enforcement partners and had meetings the next day. And we had to move pretty quickly cuz if we were going to make any changes, if changes were warranted, we had to get the word out pretty quickly.”

Changes were made.

In addition to the ban on backpacks – in place since 9/11 – the new security restrictions include: no camcorders, cans or coolers of any size and women with purses larger than 12 inches will have to leave them at home for the big races.

And the estimated 160-thousand people going through the gates can expect to have more thorough bag inspections and magnetic wand searches.

John Asher, Churchill Downs: “We hope not a single person that gets to the gate is surprised and is trying to bring in something that is not allowed.”

1200 federal state and local officers will also be out in force – an increase of about 100 since the bombing.

But Major Kelly Jones says they’re relying on alert spectators to report anything suspicious.

Major Kelly Jones, Louisville Metro Police Dept.: “We get used to things sometimes and so what we’ve learned is our folks have got to be vigilant.  We’ve got to be vigilant. People have to be the eyes and ears of this community.”

That message seems to be getting through.

“I know if I see something, I’m gonna say something, probably more so now than ever before.”

For others – it’s still all about the derby.

“This is an event that everybody looks forward to every year and just to come out and have a good time, the fashion, the mint juleps.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be a concern at all.”

The Kentucky Derby purse is guaranteed for at least 2-million-dollars with the winner netting more than a million.