Published: Friday, 22 July 2022 18:12
The Maryland Jockey Club has changed first post time to 1:50 p.m. from 12:40 p.m. for the Saturday, July 23, program at Laurel Park based on a measurement it uses to monitor extreme heat.
The forecast in the area for Sunday, July 24, led the MJC to announce July 21 that the program has been canceled and rescheduled for Thursday, July 28.
MJC Acting President Mike Rogers explained the company uses a protocol called the WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) measurement, which takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover to determine potential heat stress. It is different than the heat index, which takes into consideration temperature and humidity including for shady areas.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also uses the WBGT to manage workload in direct sunlight.
“It’s used by all major sports, the military and the Federation Equestre Internationale as a better way of determining whether heat exposure will be a risk to performance,” Rogers said. “We’ve been using the measurement. It’s not just about temperature—95 degrees can feel different in direct sunlight rather than shade.”
Rogers said if the WBGT measurement is at 91.4, there is no choice but to cancel racing. The predicted number for noon July 23 is about 90—very high—but it is expected to lower as the day goes on, he said. (The National Weather Service forecast for July 23 calls for lower dew point and humidity numbers after 1 p.m. with increasing temperatures.)
“The (measurement) lowers as the day goes on,” Rogers said. “Moving racing later in the day gives us better safety (for horses and riders).”
Of possibly racing a twilight card with a later first post of 4 p.m., for example, Rogers said: “On such short notice we thought that would be more challenging to do. But it’s something worth considering going forward.”