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By Graham Potter | Friday, December 21, 2018

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

The value of being able to host a night race meeting, as the Sunshine Coast Turf Club does on a regular basis over the summer months, has been brought into sharp focus this week with the soaring daytime temperatures putting pressure on racing officials to ensure that absolutely everything is done to protect the well-being of participants and horses alike as the heat threatens to take a toll on proceedings.

Animal welfare, of course, is paramount and QRIC’s extreme heat policy has multi-factored layers to combat and manage that issue … but, let’s not forget, the excessive heat also provides the riders with a real challenge. Many arrive at the track having followed an ultra-strict diet and exercise regime which can leave their resistance low and therefore their health vulnerable to the effects of outside influences. A heatwave could further drain their energy to an alarming degree.

As important as welfare is the safety factor. Again, horse and rider are the focal points.

The hoof to hoof action doesn’t necessarily slow down out on the track because of a temperature reading. It is a dangerous place at the best of times and it is therefore essential that those extreme heat protocols for the horses are diligently policed and that they work in terms of dramatically lowering the chances of any horse becoming distressed in the running. If there is any doubt about any individual runner beforehand, the horse must come out … and some owners are sure to take that step anyway and rather wait for another day.

In a heatwave, the same as any other day, jockeys just have to show their normal due diligence … although perhaps with a bit more critical application. They simply cannot go out to ride unless they can fully focus on the task at hand and genuine self-appraisal in this regard is thus of prime importance.

A horse that becomes overly distressed in the running because of the heat and shifts ground abruptly … a jockey, who has a momentary blurring of his or her vision … the welfare and safety issues ramp up in extreme heat and the consequences of getting it wrong could be devastating.

Two meetings are scheduled in South East Queensland today. At Ipswich’s daytime meeting the race times were already amended a couple of days ago on the back of a predicted forecast of 41 degrees … but the extreme heat policy remains in place with all of its associated concerns.

The second meeting is at the Sunshine Coast with a 6.15pm kick-off. If the weather plays along … ie the rain stays away … that is a perfect time to go racing in summer. There is a comfort element here for horses, jockeys, connections and patrons and the stress level meter drops off accordingly on so many levels.

Which brings us back to the value of being able to host a night race meeting … and to yet another string that the Sunshine Coast Turf Club has to its bow.

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