HOT season at Fair Meadows

Saturday, August 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The heat hurts horseracing in Tulsa. Fair Meadows ended its six-week racing season at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds track this weekend.

Attendance has been down, and track officials say that's because it's just been too hot, not only for people, but horses. KOTV's Glenda Silvey says that inside the simulcast building at Fair Meadows, it's cool and comfortable. The track, though, is plenty hot. And that's kept fans away. Racing at Fair Meadows started its six-week schedule on June 21st.

While fans are accustomed to some hot weather, this year has been different. Richard Linihan, Fair Meadows Marketing Director: "It's the first time in 13 years we'll be down in attendance and handle, and a great portion of that is due to the heat that we've had. We've had 15 days of 100 degree weather this summer, and last year we had one day." Off season, Fair Meadows simulcasts races from tracks around the country every day except Tuesday. It's cool inside, so business is good. But some race fans say the heat is keeping them away from the outdoor track. Race fan, Harry Brook, "Yes, particularly the elderly. And some of the not so elderly." Linihan says "We haven't had any trouble getting horses or horsemen to run here - we have full fields and we've run about four million dollars in purses this summer." The difficulty is getting folks to come out for the live races. If horses had a choice, they might balk, too.

Trainers turn fans on them, bathe them and give them alcohol rubs to cool them off. L.C. Alexander, Trainer: "In the barn you want to keep them with more than one water bucket and check them two or three times a day." Alexander believes horses do better in heat if they've been trained in it. "A lot of people like to just get them out in the morning and just run them in the heat, and I don't think that's good on them." In fact, horses can suffer heat stress. Alexander says they let him know in the way they stand, breathe, and stop sweating. "Imagine running in this heat, with someone on your back. They just gotta be tough."

Fair Meadows doesn't have any choice about running in summer, it has to do mainly with racing schedules at other state tracks. The Oklahoma HorseRacing Commission has given the 'ok' to increase their season to 44 days. Fair Meadows hopes to start a bit earlier in June - maybe even late May.