Horses keep their cool as temperatures rise at Royal Ascot

Both racegoers and racehorses took precautions at Royal Ascot as Britain’s current heatwave reached a peak on the penultimate day of the meeting.

The temperature had been incrementally rising all week in Berkshire, reaching 32C on Friday as racing took place under a cloudless sky that offered few patches of shade.

On Thursday racegoers were permitted to bring in their own soft drinks and on Friday those measures were extended when the dress code was relaxed across all enclosures.

Spectators were still required to attend as per the rules in their enclosure, but once the Royal procession had passed at 2pm, male attendees were permitted to remove ties, jackets and top hats.

The dress code was last amended in 2017, the hottest Royal meeting in more than 20 years, but on that occasion men in the Royal Enclosure were still required to wear morning dress and top hats.

Racegoers with handheld fans
Racegoers with handheld fans (Aaron Chown/PA)

Out on the track conditions were good to firm after four millimetres of water was applied overnight, but the heat was naturally a concern and measures were taken to ensure the welfare of the horses.

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As usual there were buckets of water to be poured over runners whilst they were unsaddled, but there were also cooling fans in the area where unplaced horses are stripped before returning to their stables.

Some trainers opted to saddle horses on that lawn and it was utilised by connections of all of the unplaced horses throughout the afternoon.

James Given, the British Horseracing Authority’s director of equine health and welfare, said: “We’ve got the fans misting out and buckets, which will be topped up, to get the water on to the horses.

“There will be ice added into the water to cool it even further. It’s not just about what happens after the race, it’s what the grooms do before to keep the horse cool, keep them in the shade and put water on them beforehand to make sure they’re as cool as can be. They’re ready to do their best and their welfare is best considered.

Cooling fans in action
Cooling fans in action (Adam Davy/PA)

“We have five treating vets and we have three regulatory vets. We work as a team – helping each other, keeping an eye on everything. Credit should be given to the grooms as well, they look after the horses and put in all the work that leads up to today.”

Jeremy Willis, leader of Friday’s equine welfare and integrity officer team, also said: “They’ve got fantastic facilities here, the stables are very airy, there’s a lot of wash-down facilities for the horses which the staff are very aware of.

“They wash them down two or three times a day just to keep them cool. With horses and heat, they do acclimatise.

“They acclimatise much better than a lot of people give them credit for, they acclimatise to the heat much better than us. When we’re all flaking with the heat, the horses find it much better, but with the facilities we’ve got, it just helps that recovery.”

Chris Stickels, clerk of the course, added: “There is a strong, cool breeze and that is taking the edge off the heat, which has to be a good thing.”

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