Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bomb Threats Halt British Horse Race

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bomb Threats Halt British Horse Race

Article excerpt

Bomb threats canceled Britain's premier horse race Saturday, chasing 60,000 people from the Grand National grounds and leaving police and soldiers to pick through cars and abandoned bags for signs of explosives.

Princess Anne and actor Gregory Peck, who was celebrating his 81st birthday, were among the crowd at Aintree racetrack, site of the world-famous steeplechase. Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's only daughter, was quickly ushered to safety.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Prime Minister John Major and others blamed the Irish Republican Army, which set off two bombs last week and planted two others found Thursday. Fans had to leave their vehicles behind, stranding many for the night while police checked the 20,000 cars and hundreds of buses at the racetrack for hidden explosives. A single stableboy was left in charge of the prized horses. The Grand National at Aintree racetrack attracted a worldwide TV audience of 400 million. About $120 million had been wagered on the 38 horses. No new date was set for the race, which has a $400,000 purse. The evacuation, which began only a half-hour before the race was to start, went smoothly and there were no injuries. Many fans abandoned tote bags and shopping bags in haste. The race itself was canceled just as it was about to go off. Police said there were two coded telephone warnings, typical of IRA operations. Once the stands were vacated, they carried out controlled explosions of suspicious packages. No explosives were found. "The messages indicated there could be a bomb within Aintree, but no specific location was mentioned which made it extremely difficult for us," said Paul Stephenson, an assistant chief constable. Security already was tight because of the two bombings last week, which were also near Liverpool. For the first time in the race's 158-year history, armed police were on duty. …

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