Adelaide 'twilight' horse races to go ahead despite extreme heatwave

Horse race at Morphettville, Adelaide. File photo Image copyright Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Image caption The number of races will be cut from nine to seven on Friday

Horse racing in the city of Adelaide is to go ahead on Friday despite a continuing extreme heatwave across much of Australia, the organisers say.

They say the decision on the twilight racing was taken after talks with meteorologists and South Australia's jockeys' and trainers' associations.

The event will start at 17:00 local time, albeit with a reduced number of races and more precautionary measures.

Opponents say the racing will put jockeys and horses in danger.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling raging wildfires in South Australia and New South Wales.

Officials warn that the heatwave could bring the nation's hottest day on record.

Temperatures may exceed the 50.7C (123.26F) record set in Oodnadatta, South Australia, in 1960, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

What did the organisers say?

Thoroughbred Racing SA (TRSA) issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that "at this point of time" the race in Adelaide's suburb of Morphettville would go ahead on 20 December.

The number of races would be cut from nine to seven, and an extra veterinarian will be present.

In addition, the TRSA said a number of precautionary measure would be implemented, including:

  • Activating the water misters and fans in the horse stalls area
  • Placing water buckets and hoses in the mounting yard, and parade ring areas and water/ice supplies at the barriers
  • Intervals between races - allowing, where possible, for a 30-minute gap between races
  • Reducing the requirement for horses to be on course from two hours to one hour prior to their engagements

"We have raced under similar conditions to this before so there's nothing to suggest we shouldn't... post-five o'clock will be sub-40C temperatures," TRSA chairman of stewards Johan Petzer was quoted as saying by Australia's ABC public broadcaster.

What has the reaction been?

The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) condemned the TRSA's decision, urging them to cancel Friday's event.

It said this was an example of the horse racing industry "not caring about the [animals] they profit from".

"Those horses are already under immense stress and immense pressure, and we see that with so many dying on the track each year, so to add that additional stress and pressure on them is absolutely unacceptable," CPR spokesperson Kristin Leigh said.

What's the latest on fires?

Officials are warning about a "mega blaze", which has spread beyond containment lines and razed 20 houses near Sydney.

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Media captionVideo released by the fire service shows a section of the blaze "crowning" across treetops

The fire, burning over about 400,000 hectares (988421 acres), has moved further into the Blue Mountains - a popular tourist area that lies west of the city.

It is a blow to crews who are already battling over 100 fires and bracing for extreme temperatures this week.

Since September, six people have died in a bushfire crisis that has engulfed the eastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.

The heatwave forecast for later this week will exacerbate those conditions. Across the nation, temperatures are set to exceed 40C in many areas.

Parts of Sydney could reach 46C by the end of the week, meteorologists say.

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