The Heat is On: Weather Halts Racing at Saratoga, Other Tracks

The Heat is On: Weather Halts Racing at Saratoga, Other Tracks
Photo: Barbara D. Livingston
Sign gives Saratoga fans the bad news.
Extreme heat in the East is taking its toll on racing, as six tracks cancelled racing for either Tuesday or Wednesday. Among the most prominent cancellations was Saratoga, which called off live racing for Wednesday.

In a morning meeting with trainers, jockeys, the track veterinarian, stewards, track superintendent and senior management, a unanimous decision was reached 8:12 a.m. to call off the races, according to a release from the New York Racing Association.

"The consensus in the room was to take the ultimate precaution and cancel the entire card for the safety of all participants," said Bill Nader, NYRA senior vice president.

NYRA announced Saratoga will race a 10-race card on Friday, including the $70,000 Ashado Stakes, which was to have been run as Wednesday's seventh race. Wednesday's featured eighth race, the $150,000 Cab Calloway Division of the New Stallion Stakes, will be run Sunday.

For the second day in a row, Delaware Park cancelled its Wednesday card, citing advice of the commission's veterinarian who said the extreme heat "poses a threat to the health and safety of the jockeys and the horses."

The next scheduled race day at the track is Saturday, when high temperatures are forecast to be in the 80s.

Also cancelling Wednesday racing was Suffolk Downs and Monmouth Park.

In addition to Delaware Park, tracks that cancelled Tuesday racing due to heat were Colonial Downs in Virginia and Finger Lakes in upstate New York.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in southern New England and the Middle Atlantic region will reach 100 degrees Wednesday, with high humidity levels combining for a heat index of near 110 degrees.

The Saratoga cnacellation was historic, as NYRA officials reported it was the first entire card that had been called off at the track since the advent of mutuels in 1940.

However, there have been partial race cards cancelled due to weather.

On Aug. 7, 1986, the last four races of a Saratoga raceday card were cancelled because of severe thunder and lightning. On Aug. 28, 1988, the last two races on the day's card, including the John A. Morris Handicap (gr. I) were also cancelled. That day, a tree struck by lightning fell onto the main track. On Sept. 2, 1998, the last two races of the meet were cancelled because of wind, rain and lightning.
On Aug. 28, 2004, the last race was cancelled shortly after Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone won the Travers Stakes (gr. I).

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