Powell's Handicapping Insights: It's Hot All Over
Horse racing is an outdoor, entertainment business. Like the Saratoga County Fair, located a few mile away from Saratoga Race Course, its success often comes down to the weather. For three straight years, Saratoga benefited from sunny, dry weather. In fact, one year, the weather was so good here that there were more turf races run than dirt races. Last year, the weather reverted back to the mean and Saratoga had its normal share of rain and thunderstorms resulting in lots of races being taken off the turf. It happens. This year, the oppressive heat and humidity have been the story. Last week, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday was temperatures in the high 90s and humidity above 60 percent combining for a heat index of 110. On Thursday, the New York Racing Association wisely pulled the plug on Saturday's races. Other tracks like Laurel, Delaware Park and Finger Lakes followed suit. Monmouth Park was scheduled to have their biggest day of the year with the Haskell Invitational (G1) headlining their Saturday card. With the same heat index forecast, they waited as long as they could. After running the first two races, while intense negotiations were taking place in the background, they announced that the rest of the non-stakes races were canceled and the rest of the card would resume at 6 p.m. The Haskell was re-scheduled for 8:05. Monmouth Park management took the risk and tried to run the Haskell card as scheduled, but then the political interference came and they were forced to make the compromise. On Thursday at Saratoga, a beautiful summer afternoon was disrupted when a freak thunderstorm hit the track from out of nowhere. It rained so hard you could hardly see the horses on the turf course for the fourth race. Once that was over, they immediately announced that the rest of the turf races would be switched to the main track. While the horses were assembled in the paddock for race five, there was a delay as the tractors were going over the main track. They went around at least three times, and just when they finished their last lap and you thought racing might be resumed, the announcement came that the last seven races of the card have been canceled. Since the heat wave and then the thunderstorm on Thursday, there has been the usual wringing of hands among the social media canaries. Woven into Saturday's reaction to closures and delays was the leap of faith that if the horses were not treated with Lasix, racing could have gone on as scheduled and this was just another example of America needs to ban Lasix and any other raceday medications. After all, don't we want to be just like the rest of the world? But, if you follow the rest of the world, you see a different picture. Europe is in the midst of a massive heat wave. England has had high temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit and Paris has been over 105. Neither permits raceday Lasix. And both had to cancel racing because of the heat. Southwell had to cancel the last two races on Thursday as the temperature went up one degree for each of the first five races. Two horses were treated for heat stress and help arrived from Worcester to help cool horses. They set up tents to keep the horses out of the sun as much as possible and had many people with buckets of water to douse horses after their races. In France, another country that does not permit raceday Lasix, it was so hot in Paris that they switched Thursday's Longchamp meeting a couple of hours west to Deauville which is near the coast. They also delayed post times until the temperature began to come down. Saratoga's cancellation of seven races on Thursday due to the track condition is nothing compared to the rest of the world where racing will regularly be abandoned if the courses get water logged. It's all done in the interest of the safety of the horse and if we are erring on the side of caution, so be it.