For the first time in 28 years, Churchill Downs has canceled a day of racing because the racetrack is frozen.
Icy track conditions and low temperatures led Churchill Downs to call off the 10 races scheduled for Wednesday. Track officials said they decided to cancel the races out of concerns for the safety of the jockeys and horses.
“Our track maintenance crew and officials have deemed that the track, which is currently frozen, will not improve significantly before Wednesday,” Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said.
He said that maintenance crews will continue to operate tractors with harrows on the racetrack at all hours of the evening.
Weather-related cancellations are rare for Churchill Downs.
“This is only the 19th such cancellation in our 140 year history,” Rogers said. ”It’s only the sixth time that we’ve had to cancel during the fall meet due to a frozen race track or a snowy condition.”
Rogers said the last time Churchill Downs canceled racing because of a frozen track was Nov. 13, 1986. He said the racetrack can freeze anytime the temperature drops below freezing.
“We’re hopeful that as the temperatures rise above freezing on Wednesday afternoon the track maintenance team can continue their work and harrow in the racetrack, unfreezing it and making it suitable condition for racing on Thursday,” Rodgers said.
The overnight low in Louisville is forecast to be about 17 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The high temperature Wednesday is forecast to reach about 41 degrees.
Rogers said the horses in the meantime have heaters in the barns and are still receiving exercise.
“When they can't go to the racetrack, [the stablehands] will typically pack walk a horse around the barn that way they are able to stretch their legs and have some form of exercise,” Rogers said.
When racing resumes, he said, the cold weather is a challenge for the jockeys but not necessarily the horses.
“You'll see them bundled up wearing almost a ski mask and gloves while they're riding. It can become quite challenging,” Rogers said. “The horses, on the other hand, they really like the cold weather. If you speak with any horseman, they thrive off it.”
When temperatures are low on race days, Churchill Downs will have shorter post parades.
Simulast wagering on races at other tracks in North America will remain available at Trackside. Admission will be free Wednesday and gates will open at 11:30 a.m.
Churchill Downs will contact patrons who have purchased seating for the races on Wednesday to reschedule their visit.
From Churchill Downs, here are the documented times the racetrack has closed because of weather:
Nov. 19, 2014 Frozen racetrack
June 28, 2012 Extreme Heat
June 23, 2011 Clean-up of damage following June 22 tornado
May 8, 2009 Heavy rain, thunder & lightning
May 30, 2004 Severe weather, tornado warnings
June 6, 1990 Severe weather, tornado warnings
Nov. 13, 1986 Frozen racetrack
Nov. 24, 1970 Frozen racetrack
Nov. 23, 1970 Frozen racetrack
Nov. 17, 1959 Frozen racetrack
Nov. 4, 1936 Snow
Sept. 29, 1884 Rain
Sept. 27, 1884 Rain
Sept. 24, 1884 Rain
Oct. 4, 1883 Rain
Oct. 1, 1883 Mud
May 22, 1883 Rain
Sept. 28, 1882 Rain
Sept. 21, 1882 Mud