Horse racing will go ahead in Adelaide this Friday afternoon despite extreme heat forecast across the state, with the temperature tipped to reach 44 degrees Celsius in the city earlier in the day.
Thoroughbred Racing SA (TRSA) said the planned meet at Morphettville Racecourse would go ahead from 5pm, albeit with a modified schedule.
The decision has been condemned by racing opponents, who have called for the event to be cancelled and warned that the heat would place the horses in danger.
“We had a discussion this morning with the Bureau of Meteorology – they advised us as to when the cool change is likely to come through,” said TRSA chairman of stewards Johan Petzer.
“It is anticipated that around 5pm on Friday afternoon that north-westerly wind will turn south-westerly and will bring a cool breeze [from] over the ocean.”
Parts of south-eastern Australia are currently in the grip of a severe to extreme heatwave, which has prompted public warnings, including for pet owners to ensure that their animals are kept cool and hydrated.
Adelaide on Tuesday reached a top of 41.8C and was expected to exceed 40C over the next three days, peaking at 44C on Friday.
The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses has slammed the TRSA’s commitment to continue Friday’s meet, saying it was an example of the industry “not caring about the [animals] they profit from”.
“They should err on the side of caution and cancel the meet completely,” spokesperson Kristin Leigh said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a horse collapse from heat stress on that day, which can result in death.
“Those horses are already under immense stress and immense pressure, and we see that with so many dying on the track each year, so to add that additional stress and pressure on them is absolutely unacceptable.”
Extra vet, fewer races to reduce heat impact
TRSA said it had reduced the number of races from nine to seven as well as implementing other precautionary measures, including having an extra vet on standby.
“We’ve made the gaps between races 30 minutes where possible,” Mr Petzer said.
“Horses are ordinarily required to be on course about two hours before – we’ve allowed horses to be here one hour before, so that’ll minimise the exposure.
“We have raced under similar conditions to this before so there’s nothing to suggest we shouldn’t … post-five o’clock will be sub-40C temperatures.”
But Ms Leigh said the heat would likely still be intense enough to distress the horses.
“[They] are going to be forced beyond their limits on a racetrack with a jockey on their back with a whip,” she said.
“We never know what’s going to happen with the weather but one thing we’re guaranteed is that it’s going to be extremely hot that day.”