Police believe racing museum burglaries linked
SARATOGA SPRINGS The late-night heist at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs last week doesn’t appear to be an isolated burglary, police say.
A burglary in December at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, in which 14 pieces were stolen, is believed to have been pulled off by the same person or people who took five priceless trophies from the Saratoga museum, said Saratoga Springs police Lt. John Catone.
“We’ve had multiple conversations with the law enforcement agency in Goshen. Both agencies believe it is the same person or persons,” he said. “There are way too many similarities.”
Because of the similarities, the FBI was also notified about the most recent theft.
The Saratoga burglary, which took less than three minutes to complete, occurred about 11:30 p.m. Sept. 12. City police arrived at the museum less than a minute after being notified by the museum’s private alarm company at 11:36 p.m., but by that time, the burglar was already gone.
Glass cutters were used to gain access to the museum, which kept any alarms from going off initially. During the escape, a door on Ludlow Street was opened, setting off an alarm.
The thief hit the museum’s steeplechase gallery first, nabbing the 1914 Brook Cup Handicap Steeplechase Trophy won by Compliment and the 1923 Grand National Steeplechase Trophy won by Sergeant Murphy. Moments later, the post-Civil War gallery was burgled, with the raiding of a case that contained the 1903 Belmont Stakes Trophy won by Africander, the 1903 Brighton Cup Trophy won by Hermis and the 1905 Saratoga Special Trophy won by Mohawk II.
Catone said the entry, speed of the burglary, tools involved and smashing of the cases were the same in both robberies.
The 14 pieces stolen in Goshen were worth more than $300,000, including an 18-karat Memphis Gold Challenge Cup won in 1902 and sterling silver Faberge soup tureen and ladle given to an American by Russian Czar Nicholas II in 1912. It’s not clear whether more than one person was involved in the burglary at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, as surveillance footage from inside has yet to be reviewed by the state police. Catone previously described a thief wearing dark clothing and carrying a backpack.
Catone added that other high-end burglaries could also be connected, citing a break-in at a New Jersey country club where expensive trophies were stolen, as well as some burglaries in Pennsylvania. If the logistics could be worked out, he said officials investigating the different crimes were hoping to meet up in the near future.
Aside from reaching out to different law enforcement agencies, Catone has been talking to people all over the country who traffic in high-end art and antiques.
“I’ve emailed the information all over the country, and they’ve emailed it to people in their industries,” he said.
One way police hope to catch the culprit from the Saratoga burglary is by reaching out to people who are capable of melting down the trophies, which would allow the gold to be sold. Catone said there are a limited number of people capable of melting down the trophies.
He noted there is a big art and antique expo in October, so vendors have been alerted to the possibility someone might appear trying to sell the trophies in their current form.
The racing museum, which was originally scheduled to reopen Thursday, will reopen Tuesday, with its regular fall hours.