Numerous horse races were canceled in anticipation of dangerous heat and humidity.
New York’s Saratoga Race Course canceled Saturday’s events, marking the first time since 2006 an entire racing card had been called off there due to extreme heat.
“This is a responsible and prudent decision that aligns with our New York Racetrack Heat Management Protocol designed to ensure safe racing for all participants,” said New York State Gaming Commission Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer.
In an alert for the D.C.-Baltimore region, the National Weather Service said of this weekend’s conditions, “Dangerously high temperatures and humidity could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke if precautions are not taken.”
Maryland’s Laurel Park announced that its live racing programs for Saturday and Sunday were being canceled. The facility is set to stay open for simulcasting.
Citing “the forecast calling for extreme temperatures and high humidity this weekend,” Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra said, “The health and safety of our horses and jockeys is our highest priority.”
New Jersey’s Monmouth Park is expected to host the Haskell Invitational, the state’s biggest horse racing event, on Saturday, when it is set to be televised nationally on NBC. Track officials said (via NJ.com) that they’re implementing standard “extreme weather” protocols, including having extra medical personnel on site, as well as extra hoses to help horses cool down.
“The safety of the horses, the jockeys, the fans — it really does come first here,” said Tom Luicci, Monmouth Park’s media manager. “We’re prepared for the heat.”
Luicci added that the track gets “the benefit of an ocean breeze” that “really does make a difference here,” but that track officials would not hesitate to delay post times, if deemed prudent.
“We will be in contact with the state veterinarians, and if we feel it’s unsafe for horses, there are things we can do,” said Dennis Drazin, the head of the company that operates Monmouth Park (via the Asbury Park Press). He said the Haskell, scheduled for a 5:47 p.m. start time, could be pushed back later in the evening, when temperatures would be cooler, even if it means NBC can’t cover the race.
Other tracks that have already canceled horse racing on Saturday (per Equibase) include Delaware Park, New York’s Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Parx Racing in Pennsylvania and Ohio’s Belterra Park.
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement that running the Haskell would be “extremely foolish and reckless.”
“PETA urges Monmouth and the New Jersey Racing Commission to postpone the Haskell Invitational and cancel racing for the weekend,” she said in the statement. “This is the only way to protect thoroughbreds from heat-related injuries, as New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania tracks have already recognized. If even one horse collapses, Monmouth officials should be held criminally liable for cruelty.”
A pair of Michigan auto racing venues said Thursday they are canceling events set for Friday.
“With heat index temperatures expected to reach or exceed 108 degrees, conditions would be miserable and dangerous not only for fans but also for the teams and drivers,” the Kalamazoo Speedway announced (via MLive). “One of our main goals each week is to have a clean, safe, fun atmosphere for drivers, spectators and track employees. With the predicted conditions it will not be possible to do that.”