Updated on 06/27/2012 5:38PM

Churchill Downs adjusts schedule because of predicted heat

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
A Downs After Dark card is scheduled for Saturday evening.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs officials announced Wednesday evening that they will attempt to salvage the final three days of the spring meet in the face of an oppressive heat wave by switching to a first post of 6:30 p.m. Eastern for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.Churchill canceled a nine-race Thursday card in girding for the heat.

Daytime temperatures through the weekend were forecast to surge past 100 degrees, making conditions unbearable for horses and humans for much of the day. The Friday program had been scheduled to start at 2:45; Saturday at 6; and Sunday at 12:45.

Churchill president Kevin Flanery said in a media release that the move to night racing "will ease the threat of weather-related issues" and that the track's lighting system gave officials a welcome measure of flexibility. Churchill began using lights as an experiment at the 2009 spring meet before installing a permanent system in time for the 2010 spring meet. Three nighttime Downs After Dark cards already have been run at this meet, on April 28, June 2, and June 16.

The lights have "allowed the flexibility to adapt to the extreme heat and develop a schedule that eases our most serious concerns about the safety of our equine and human athletes and meets the needs of our horsemen by preserving races scheduled for the meet's final three days," said Flanery. The move also "provides fans who wish to enjoy Churchill Downs racing - either on-track, online or at satellite wagering centers - the opportunity to do so."

Flanery said the Thursday races will not be made up, although Churchill's racing secretary, Ben Huffman, said earlier Wednesday that some of those lost races may be redrawn and carded for Sunday. The same number of races, 32, will be run during the final three-day period as was originally scheduled. The last race for Friday (11 races) will be run at 11:30; Saturday (11 races) at 11:40; and Sunday (10 races) at 10:30.

Feature races for the end of the meet are the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on Saturday and Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on Sunday