BALTIMORE — Old Hilltop will be scorching hot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.
Temperatures will be well into the mid-90s for the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The forecasted 96-degree heat will tie a record set in 1934.
That causes concerns for patrons, jockeys, and of course, the thoroughbreds.
The heat index is expected to be near 100 degrees on Saturday, a dangerous condition for anyone or any horse to exert a lot of energy.
“It’s going to be hot, the hottest day of the year, so drink water,” WMAR-2 News meteorologist Patrick Pete said. “So, wear a hat, drink water, wear sunscreen.”
On top of that, we will have elevated ozone concentrations, which has prompted a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for Saturday.
This will not impact everyone, but people with asthma, heart disease and other respiratory issues will find it a little harder to breathe.
The Preakness Stakes horses will race out of the gate around 7 p.m.
Trainers and owners don’t expect the race to be delayed, even if temperatures are sky high.
“I don’t think they can delay it. It starts at 7 o’clock at night,” said Fenwick trainer Kevin McKathan. “I’ve seen it happen before in some of the bigger races but I don’t foresee it. It will be cooling off by then. I think the fans in the Infield will have a little more trouble than the horses we are leading over there.”
Throughout the night, and hours leading up to the Preakness Stakes, trainers and horse-hands will do their best to keep their horses hydrated, cool and watered down, as much as they can.
“We are aware it is supposed to be mid-90s on Saturday afternoon,” said Steve Asmussen, trainer of Preakness favorite Epicenter. “We are concerned about his hydration level and making sure he is drinking plenty of water, and keeping him as cool as we can on Saturday. Multiple times, we will sponge him off with cool water. I think his attitude will help him with the heat.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has Secret Oath in the field, says that other than keeping the horses as cool as possible, all the competitors will be dealing with the same heat conditions.
“We will maybe give him a bath before we go over there. The heat is the heat, but it is the same for all of them,” Lukas said.
As for the spectators, gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday, and temperatures will quickly get hotter, especially for those in the Infield.
Tiffani Steer, VP of communications, said they are prepared for the elevated heat.
She said there will be complimentary water throughout for the guests, water stations in the Infield, shaded tents, cooling stations and paramedics nearby.
“It’s going to be hot, so if you are coming, prepare for it. Just stay hydrated,” Steer said.
Steer also emphasized that the horses will also be protected from any heat exhaustion.
“For our horses, they are well taken care of,” she said. “We have extra ice blankets, misting fans, extra hoses, water troughs all throughout the track. The safety is so important for our guests and our horses.”