When temperatures start rising above 90 degrees (as they did this past weekend), spectators at Saratoga Race Course grow concerned about the horses.
The Daily Racing Blog and staff were in attendance at The Spa over the weekend and can attest to the fact that it was more hot springs than spa.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) said it closely follows New York State’s heat management protocols for the safety of the horses.
NYRA Vice President of Communications Patrick McKenna said NYRA and the New York State Gaming Commission work closely with horsemen to ensure the protocols are followed.
The heat management protocols include the racetrack veterinarian keeping an eye on the National Weather Service heat index.
The heat index measures how hot it really feels when you factor in the humidity.
If the heat index reaches 105, the veterinarian should notify track officials about the dangerous heat conditions.
According to the protocols in place, officials should cancel racing for the day if conditions are too dangerous for the horses.
The last time the races at Saratoga were cancelled due to the heat was 2019.
The heat management protocols include several precautions to lessen heat stress if horses are allowed to race. These include:
- Horses being hosed and covered with light sheets soaked in ice water on their way to the paddock.
- Horses being observed continually as they approach the paddock, while they are in the paddock, during the warm-up period, while racing, and as they leave the race.
- Buckets of ice and cold-water hoses being made available all around the racing oval, in the paddock, and at the winner’s circle for emergency use.
- Water gathering on the body surface of a horse should be scraped off.
- After the race, a horse should be cooled off with hosing and ice water.
- Officials should place horses in the shade or in front of fans.
- The horse’s body temperature should be monitored until it returns to a normal level.
- Horses with persistently elevated body temperatures should receive veterinary care.
McKenna stated there are cooling stations located throughout the facility and the veterinarians observe all horses before and after the race.
All horses who are entered to race are inspected by NYRA veterinarians.
According to McKenna, horse monitoring starts at the beginning of the day, regardless of the weather.
NYRA uses a state-of-the-art on-site weather station as well as professional meteorologists to access real-time weather data throughout the day.
The heat, as well as racing continues at Saratoga on Wednesday.