Dog days keep horses from racing at Saratoga

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The dog days of August kept Saratoga's horses tucked away in their stables.

The thoroughbreds weren't alone in seeking refuge from the intense heat wave that gripped the United States again Wednesday. Temperatures were near 100 in some places and hotter in others, and it wasn't pleasant.

"You're sweating, you're trying to keep your grip dry," said Andre Agassi, who played Tuesday in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington. "Sweat is coming down past your eyes when you're about to hit a ball. When you go up to hit your serve, water's flying."

At least he made it onto the court.

Saratoga Race Course canceled all nine of its thoroughbred races because of the heat and humidity. It was not immediately known whether the 142-year-old track had previously lost a full day of racing because of weather.

Trainers, jockeys, the track veterinarian and New York Racing Association officials met in the morning and unanimously decided to abandon the day's card.

"The consensus in the room was to take the ultimate precaution and cancel the entire card for the safety of all participants," NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said.

The best NFL players in training camp could hope for was extra water and later practices when the sun wasn't so strong.

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs delayed the start of a two-hour workout from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

"We can't afford to miss practice or cut practice short, and I think by going at night we'll have a better chance to get all of our work in and get out of the heat," Gibbs said. "You want to be careful with the players."

The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills also opted for more optimal hours.

Even so, Redskins guard Randy Thomas is not getting a whole lot of relief.

"I'm 310 [pounds], I eat bad -- this is not like sweat, it's like grease coming off my head," Thomas said. "It feels like the sun is on my shoulders and is rolling on my back, back and forth, I don't even feel the breeze, even though the leaves are blowing."

In St. Louis, it was 101 degrees at new Busch Stadium when the Cardinals-Phillies baseball game started.

The night before, Philadelphia rookie Scott Mathieson pitched five innings in nearly 100-degree heat.

"I went through five or six shirts and two hats out there. Every inning I changed it. I was just drenched," he said.

Relief wasn't expected before today or Friday in the East. Cooler weather in the South wasn't as predictable.

Surprisingly, Florida was a safe haven from the heat, with temperatures forecast to remain in the 80s. But even those from warm, even tropical, climates aren't used to this.

"I don't care where you are from, nobody likes sweating through their shirt," said Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who was born in Puerto Rico and spent seven seasons in Miami with the Florida Marlins.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona made batting practice optional Tuesday and Wednesday before games against Cleveland in steamy Fenway Park. Francona even had coaches and batboys shagging balls for the players who chose to take BP swings.

The Indians also called off extra hitting sessions and stepped up reminders to encourage players to continue drinking.

"The key is hydration and more hydration," Red Sox trainer Jim Rowe said. "These guys are drinking something 24-7."

That's OK for the 50 or so guys in uniform. But there are also 36,000 fans in the stands who won't have the option of popping into an air-conditioned clubhouse. For them, the Red Sox set up a water mister in the right-field concourse.

Yankees manager Joe Torre wasn't fazed, even though it was 97 degrees when New York's Chien-Ming Wang threw the first pitch Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I played in St. Louis on artificial surface. I don't even think about it," he said as beads of sweat formed on his upper lip.

The dangers became all the more evident in 2001 when Minnesota lineman Korey Stringer died of heatstroke following a sweltering practice.

A 15-year-old high school football player died Tuesday after collapsing one day earlier following an offseason workout in an Atlanta suburb. He became at least the fifth football player nationwide to die this summer from heat-related problems.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: