Southwell loses last two races to heatwave

Stewards prioritise horse welfare as temperature soars

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The last two races at Southwell on Thursday were abandoned on welfare grounds in extreme temperatures.

The first of seven scheduled events was brought forward to 11.25am, with the last due off at 2.30pm, in an attempt to beat the hottest part of the day.

Even so, the heat became unbearable and the decision to stop was taken after the fifth race.

Charlie Moore, who was the acting clerk of the course on duty for the day, said: “The last temperature reading we took, which was at the end of race five, was 34.6C and it had effectively gone up a degree a race.

“There was no-one eager to go on in the conditions.

“We had six vets here, four of own and two of the British Horseracing Authority, and we were all aware it was getting hotter and it was decided to hold an inquiry into the situation. At that inquiry there was no-one voting against the facts.”

All key parties, including jockeys and trainers, were involved in the inquiry that led to the premature conclusion of the fixture.

Moore added: “Every facet was represented and the one thing I know in racing is that ultimately you can’t beat nature.

“The team here at Southwell has been amazing. All the provisions they put in place – marquees, fans, extra water, extra ice, extra people at washdowns etc – have been fantastic.

“We just have to be sensible and the stewards came to the right decision at that time of day.

“We weren’t wrong to start racing. We were fine when we started – we just monitored the situation as we went along.

“All horses that raced are all right.”

The last time a jumps’ race was abandoned in similar circumstances was the three-and-a-quarter-mile mares’ handicap chase at Cheltenham in April 2018, when temperatures reached an unseasonal 26C.

Things went smoothly for Sandown’s Flat meeting, with clerk of the course Andrew Cooper happy with how this difficult situation has been handled.

“We have four veterinary surgeons on duty and a lot of experts of handling the thoroughbred racehorse in terms of what you might call extreme temperature,” he said.

“They seem comfortable with arrangements in place and how horses are handling it things. No concerns have been raised by any professional partner no trainer, no jockey and none of the experienced veterinary team.

“For all racing, the key thing seems to be having access to cold water as soon as you can in terms of the post-race handling of the horses.

“We have enhanced volumes and accessibility to water. We’ve also got mobile water on vehicles of our own and if there is an incident anywhere, we can get water to the horse.

“We are not racing beyond a mile-six – Southwell started at two miles and it has very different demands on the horse.

“In terms of our situation here, it wasn’t raised (bringing the meeting forward) as a Flat race meeting as a necessary scenario.”

Trainer Mark Johnston sent a team of horses to the Esher track from his base in North Yorkshire and was not unduly concerned.

He said: “We take more precautions than most on a normally hot day. We put these wet sheets on them and we’ve always done that.

“We take precautions when we are travelling, which would be far more of a concern to me than on a racecourse. We give them a bit extra water and make sure we throw plenty of water over them.

“I hope there is nothing to prove me wrong, but I’m not overly concerned by this. Let’s enjoy it and let the horses enjoy it.

“They came down last night and although I’m not sure what time they left, they would still be travelling fair bit in the heat of the day. I do sometimes wonder if it is a wee bit over the top.

“The further you go, maybe it does make a difference – of course it does – but other countries race in much warmer climates. We take our horses to Dubai, albeit they train early in the morning and we race at night, but we are still out there in temperatures like this.”

Frankie Dettori is used to the sun, but the Italian had to admit it was the hottest he had known racing in England.

“It’s hot. We can cope with this though, it is the poor horses that have to run,” he said.

“It is the highest temperature I’ve ever ridden in England without a doubt.”

Sardinian-born Andrea Atzeni sympathised with the plight of horses and riders.

He said: “It is hard for us and hard for the horses, but it is one of those things.

“I’m lucky I don’t have to waste, but there are jockeys in there that have to careful with their weight. It is probably not ideal, but we have to get on with it.

“Everything that has been put in place to cope with it seems to be fine. We are still racing as hard as we would normally be, with the difference just it being warmer than usual.”

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