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Start of Haskell card delayed amid fierce heat, protests

Monmouth Haskell Horse Racing

FILE - In this May 4, 2019, file photo, Flavien Prat on Country House, left, races against Luis Saez on Maximum Security, third from left, during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House won the race. Maximum Security will try to move to the top of the 3-year-old thoroughbred division when he takes on scorching heat and a challenging field in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Saturday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

AP

OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Amid protests about oppressive heat and the health of horses, the start of the Haskell Invitational card at Monmouth Park was delayed nearly 40 minutes.

Track officials gave no reason for the delay of the first race, which was scheduled to start at noon EDT. Protesters demonstrated outside the track on a day when the forecast calls for temperatures to hit 95 degrees with heat index values reaching 106.

After 27 minutes, the track announced the five remaining horses in the first race would be returning to the paddock and head to the gate shortly.

The horses had been saddled and paraded in the paddock. The riders, however, did not come out to mount them. No announcement was made to the crowd.

After 20 minutes, the track announced Bells Irish Fancy and Magic Hatter had been scratched, leaving a field of five. They had been saddled and were ready to run.

The race went off without incident. The horses were then hosed down on the track.