10/23/2001 11:00PM

Increased security for Cup

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NEW YORK - Because of heightened security at Belmont Park, anyone going to the Breeders' Cup this Saturday should factor in a few extra minutes to get through the turnstiles, racing officials said Wednesday.

Belmont Park is no different than any other open-air location in or around New York these days, the officials stressed. And that means that patrons are going to be under watchful eyes from the time they arrive until the time they depart, which will translate into delays as security searches cars and people on their way to the gates.

New York Racing Association chairman Barry Schwartz, however, said the delays will be minimal. "And if there is a mild inconvenience," said Schwartz, "I don't think people mind anymore. They understand that it is the right thing to do."

Among the precautions will be additional security officers and the unprecedented use of screening equipment at the front gates, such as metal-detecting rods commonly used at airports and other large events, officials said. The security effort has been coordinated by NYRA's security staff and Nassau County police officials, Schwartz said.

"I've sat in for some of the meetings," Schwartz said. "They are prepared for anything and everything."

Apart from potential attacks on the crowd or facility at Belmont, one of the most sensitive security concerns for NYRA officials had expected to be protecting Arab owners, who this year will start 20 out of the 98 horses in the eight Breeders' Cup races. However, none of the Arab owners are now expected to attend, according to NYRA and officials for the owners.

The list of Arab owners includes Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, owner of odds-on Juvenile favorite Officer; Shiekhs Maktoum, Mohammed, and Hamdan of the Maktoum ruling family of Dubai, who together own Godolphin Racing and separately campaign their own horses; Prince Kahlid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the owner of Juddmonte Farms; and Mohammed Jumah al Nabouda, a nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

Salman, who generally watches his best horses run at American tracks, decided not to attend the Breeders' Cup this week. According to Terence Collier, a spokesman for Salman and a Fasig-Tipton executive, Salman's decision was partly influenced by an incident last week at the London headquarters of Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper that Salman owns. Police were called in to investigate suspicious white powders in two envelopes sent to the building, Collier said. The substances later tested negative for anthrax, Collier said.

The Maktoums, who have 12 horses in the Cup races, have never come to the Breeders' Cup, according to Godolphin Racing trainer Saeed bin Suroor, and they are staying in Dubai this year as well.

Abdullah of Juddmonte Farms, which has three horses in the Cup this year, rarely visits the United States, according to NYRA officials. "I haven't seen him in years," said Schwartz. "So obviously we don't expect him to be here."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman and David Grening