MJC monitoring potential extreme heat conditions

Thursday, July 27, 2023

With temperatures expected to approach 100 degrees in central Maryland heading into the final weekend of July, the Maryland Jockey Club will use a protocol called the WetBulb Globe Temperature index to monitor extreme heat.

The measurement 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.

Laurel Park has live racing scheduled for Friday, July 28, through Sunday, July 30. The National Weather Service for the Laurel area is forecasting a high temperature of 97 degrees July 28-29 and 81 degrees July 30. A heat advisory was issued for Thursday, July 27, with an expected heat index of 105.

MJC Acting President Mike Rogers last year said the WBGT index is used by major sports leagues and the military to determine whether heat exposure will be a risk to performance. He said if the WBGT measurement is 91.4 or higher, there is no choice but to cancel racing.

The NWS, which tracks the WBGT index, projects a number of 89 in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area July 28, 91 on July 29, and 87 on July 30. Heat index values July 28-29 are expected to run from 100 to at least 105.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Racetrack Safety Program states that each racetrack shall develop, implement and annually review a hazardous weather protocol that shall include “implementation of a dangerous weather protocol, which includes for extreme heat and chill factors and air quality.” Things such as specific indices and limits are up to each racetrack to determine, so there can be differences as was the case recently with cancellations brought about poor air quality in various regions.

Last year in late July the MJC for one racing day slightly altered first post time because the WBGT index was expected to drop an hour later to what it considers a safe number. Hawthorne Race Course for July 26-27 earlier announced a change in first post time from 2:30 p.m. Central to 4:50 p.m. to avoid the hottest period of the day. Tracks also have the option to cancel live racing and transfer the program to another day.