BHA on welfare alert with record high temperatures forecast for Thursday

The BHA on Monday underlined the importance of welfare among the sport's participants in light of Britain's imminent heatwave this week – one some forecasters reckon could lead to record highs.

From Tuesday, temperatures are set to soar with highs of 37C predicted for Thursday, when Sandown and Yarmouth host afternoon Flat cards and Southwell stages a jumps fixture.

There are also evening meetings at Newbury and Doncaster, and David Sykes, the BHA's director of equine health and welfare, said: "Thoroughbred horses are adapted to running in hot temperatures, and racing takes place in countries like Australia, Dubai and the USA in hotter temperatures than in Great Britain.

"As an industry we have experience dealing with these conditions and take precautionary measures when the temperatures rise, for the benefit of both human and equine participants.

"For example, racecourses are instructed to increase the provision of cool water and ice with plenty of staff to help distribute it, areas of shade and earlier access to stables, and trainers are advised to travel their horses early with plenty of water and keep them cool before and after racing.

"Every racecourse is inspected prior to racing to ensure that the hot weather provisions are sufficient or ascertain where they may be further enhanced."

The BHA is not anticipating any problems caused by the red-hot weather, but can take action if necessary.

Monmouth Park's important Haskell Invitational card was interrupted by sweltering conditions in New Jersey on Saturday, while a long-distance chase at Cheltenham was cancelled in April last year because of unseasonal highs.  

"Veterinary teams and racecourse staff are all on hand to provide care for horses before and after they have competed, and they are constantly looking out for any horses who show any signs of not coping with the heat before or after they race," Sykes added. 

"The welfare of our participants always comes first and – should there be any concern regarding the effect of the weather on the horses or jockeys – the BHA has the ability to take action to ensure their welfare is protected. This might include cancelling or delaying specific races if required, or even calling off a fixture if the evidence shows that there is too great a risk to horses's health to carry on."

Temperatures could reach 35C at Sandown and 32C at Southwell, which might make Yarmouth's 28C seem more comfortable.

Richard Aldous, clerk of the course at the seaside circuit, said: "You always hope you've got a breeze being by the seaside, but we will have plenty of water out. Water troughs in the winner's enclosure and parade ring and out on the course and in the stable yard.

"The benefit is the parade ring is right by the stable yard, so you've got wash-down boxes there as well.

"There'll be ice going into the water troughs and people on hand to help if there are any horses who have heat-stress problems. Touch wood there won't be, but there'll be plenty of water on standby."

It is not just the horses Yarmouth will aim to keep cool.

"There's always jugs of water in the bars for racegoers and we always supply stable staff with free bottled water at every meeting, whether it's hot like this or not," Aldous added.