Beating the heat: Haskell Stakes delayed at Monmouth Park

July 20, 2019 12:27pm
Monmouth Park officials have canceled the bulk of Saturday's undercard amid an Excessive Heat Warning in New Jersey and delayed the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational.

An abbreviated card comprised only of stakes will resume at 6 p.m. ET. Post time for the Haskell, led by Maximum Security, is now 8:05 p.m.

Two races ran to open the card on a delayed basis without incident, but political pressure was applied from the governor's office to push back the card. Saratoga and other East Coast tracks canceled their Saturday races due to weather.

Randy Moss, an on-air NBC handicapper and host, said the network will live stream the Haskell through its app. The regular home of racing, TVG, will offer live coverage, and you can live stream through advanced deposit wagering services such as NYRABets.

Updated post times are...

Race 5: Grade 3 Oceanport (6 p.m.)

Race 8: Grade 3 Molly Pitcher (6:25 p.m.)

Race 9: Wolf Hill Stakes (6:53 p.m.)

Race 10: Grade 3 Monmouth Cup (7:15 p.m.)

Race 11: Grade 3 Matchmaker (7:40 p.m.)

Race 12: Grade 1 Haskell Invitational (8:05 p.m.)

Available on the wagering menu will be an all-stakes Pick 5 ending with the Haskell.

Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development, operators of Monmouth Park, released the following statement.

“We’ve been carefully monitoring the heat for days, including today, and we have a staff of veterinarians and state veterinarians, independent vets and consultants, all of whom tell us it’s safe to run, that we’re below the level required for the recommendation for cancellation.

“However, given the heightened concern from the public about the heat, and in the interest of the safety of the horses, we’ve decided to proceed with an abundance of caution, to cancel the remaining non-stakes races and to delay the six stakes races until a later post time starting at 6 p.m., with those races 25 minutes apart. The Haskell Invitational will now have a post time of 8:05 p.m.

“We’re doing this to err on the side of caution.”

ORIGINAL: More than 30 minutes past scheduled noon ET first post time at Monmouth Park, Haskell Stakes day hadn't started as horses and jockeys waited in the paddock.

There wasn't was official word on why racing was held up, but trainer Todd Pletcher relayed to TVG that state officials spoke to track management about temperatures. A track official separately notified Horse Racing Nation that a high-ranking New Jersey politician stepped in needing assurance conditions were OK to run the card.

An Excessive Heat Warning prompted a number of other East Coast tracks, including Saratoga, to cancel Saturday cards. According to the 
National Weather Service, it was 93 degrees around noon at the Belmar-Farmingdale airport near Monmouth Park with the heat index at 106 degrees.

RELATED: Free Haskell picks, past performances and more

Just before 12:30 p.m., track announcer Frank Mirahmadi told the public horses would head to the track "shortly." A call to the post led to a roar from the crowd, and the field went straight to the gate for the opener, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint that scratched down to five runners.

The race went off without incident. Per that same track official, Monmouth officials were to reevaluate conditions throughout the card.

Gregg Sacco, a Monmouth Park-based trainer who conditions Haskell contender Joevia, said "there are obvious concerns with the heat," but he added that the track "is taking all the necessary steps to make sure that the horsemen and jockeys and everybody is safe.

"I'm all for it, and if it means a little delay and working things out with the scheduling, that's fine with us."
Monmouth Park chose to run with a number of safety protocols in place. Earlier this week Tom Luicci, media manager for the New Jersey track, said the following would be done Saturday:

 Extra medical personnel on site for people.

 Ice containers stationed throughout the track and where horses walk in from the track.

 Extra hoses for horses to cool down before and after races.

 A misting system in the paddock.

 Shortened post parades.

“We could also delay races,” Luicci said. “We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the horses, the horsemen and the people here. If there is a delay, we could push back races. That’s a possibility until it gets a little bit cooler.”

Scheduled post time for the Haskell, the last of six stakes in Oceanport, N.J., is 5:47 p.m. ET. NBC has a broadcast window from 5-6 p.m. ET.

The Asbury Park Press reported that a group of about 30 also gathered Saturday outside the track to protest racing in general. The 
33-year-old Joe Silva told the newspaper heat "added cruelty to an already cruel scenario."

Matt Shifman contributed to this report.


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