Could this be a sign of things to come over the next couple of months?
A notification on the Racing NSW website reads: ‘The race meeting scheduled for Grafton on Sunday (29th November) has been transferred to Coffs Harbour due to the forecast weather of 41 degrees celsius at Grafton on Sunday.’
Racing NSW has an eight page ’Racing in Hot Weather Policy’ in place which describes in specific detail all of the strict procedures that must be followed to ensure the welfare of all participants … human and horse … in times of excessive heat. Other jurisdictions have similar protocols in place.
The list of relevant instructions referred to in that policy is all inclusive of just about every contingency plan you can have.
Within those parameters, stewards are entrusted with monitoring the temperature on an on-going basis, continually consulting with vets and jockeys where necessary and then, in the worst case scenario, acting on all of the advice and information that is available to them to make the final call as to whether to proceed with the meeting or to modify the program for that race meeting.
Modification of a race program might include the advancement or delay in a schedule if it appears likely the extreme conditions might ease or be avoided.
That heavy responsibility rests on the heads of the stewards and they will, obviously, always make decisions based on the best interests of all participants. That is a fact we can accept without question.
But … can the current policy be improved?
For the sake of argument, if it has a failing, it is that there is no clearly defined ‘cut off point’ at which racing would have to stop because of the heat.
Currently, it is still left to discretion whereas if, arguably, the policy also enforced the position that when a certain temperature is reached, proceedings would have to be called to a halt … not necessarily abandoned, but maybe delayed … and that would mean everybody would fully understand all of the possible outcomes beforehand.
Discretion would be taken out of the equation. All arguments about whether the right decision is made would fall away.
It would be done by the book with everybody aware of the rule.
Be that as it may, Grafton has now been moved to Coffs Harbour this Sunday because of that predicted forecast weather of 41 degree … and it is still November!
You can take short-odds that it won’t be the last time authorities will be sweltering over making similar decisions this summer.
They can’t say they have not been forewarned!