SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Hot days are nothing new at Saratoga Race Course's summer meet, but that didn't make Friday's heat any easier to take.
Temperatures reached the mid-90s on Opening Day, with the heat indexes hovering over 100 degrees at Friday's hottest point. While the excitement for the start of the 2013 meet still abounded at the Spa Friday, with a large crowd cheering on the thoroughbreds, trainers acknowledged that it took a special horse to overcome the uncomfortable weather.
"We always worry about the heat but we try to keep the horses as cool as we can and they work out," Rudy Rodriguez said after saddling Sage Valley to a win in the Grade 3 James Marvin Stakes. "They got to keep cool but it's not easy."
"She wastes none of herself, she's really easy to be around," Steven Asmussen said after his Brazen Persuasion dead-heated with Bahnah in the Grade 3 Schuylerville. "I felt that no matter how hot it was, she'd handle it better than they would."
The New York Racing Association took several precautions in making sure the first of 40 racing days at Saratoga went off without a hitch. Extra water was brought in for horses and humans alike, and bags of ice were available for purchase at several concession stands in the backyard.
Friday's heat was the latest in a series of scorching days in Saratoga County, and it came after a scare regarding low chlorine levels in the water at the race track earlier this week. There were rumblings about a possible cancellation of Opening Day, but NYRA CEO Chris Kay rebuffed them earlier in the week.
"The NYRA staff is accustomed to and adept at dealing with hot weather days at Saratoga," he said in a press release sent out Thursday. "We anticipate a normal day of racing here [Friday]."
That is exactly what happened. 28 horses were scratched across the 10-race card, but many of those were on the also-eligible and main-track-only lists. Per the NYRA website, just three horses were scratched by the stewards, and only one was scratched by a track veterinarian.
With regard to the weather, though, relief may be in sight. The weekend forecast calls for more seasonable temperatures that stretch into next week.