Tag Archives: June 9

The drug days of summer horse racing

By Kathy Guillermo

There’s quite a buzz surrounding the possibility that I’ll Have Another will cross the finish line first in the Belmont Stakes June 9 and become the first Triple Crown Winner since 1978. The subtext to this public discussion is a lot seedier: I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, has a long rap sheet of drugging violations.

For more than a decade, O’Neill has been in trouble over and over again for administering substances illegally to horses. Just last week, the California Horse Racing Board suspended O’Neill for 45 days in that state and fined him $15,000 for a drugging violation. Statistics show that the horses he trains suffer catastrophic injury at twice the rate of the national average—an indication that somehow (anti-inflammatory drugs? Painkillers? Muscle relaxants?) horses are raced when fatigue and injury should dictate rest and recuperation.

To those of us not involved in thoroughbred racing, the questions are obvious: How is it that this man can still be training horses? How can it be that someone who wouldn’t even be allowed to unload a horse van on a track in one state is garnering accolades as he prepares to run a horse in another? And why has the racing industry embraced him and not kicked him out on his chemical-laden can?

So here’s a message to the racing industry: Stop blaming your bad image on the animal protection organizations that work to improve living, racing and retirement conditions for thoroughbreds. Quit your griping and clean up your act.

Thoroughbred racing needs a zero-tolerance policy. This means much more than a multiyear debate about whether or not furosemide, also known as Lasix or Salix, should be allowed on the day that a horse races. The discussion about this drug, which purports to prevent bleeding in the lungs during exertion, is the racing industry’s delaying tactic: If they focus on this one medication, they won’t have to talk about the 25 or 30 injections of drugs that are often given to horses in the week before a race.

“Zero-tolerance” means that repeat offenders need to find a new career.

The misuse of legal drugs to keep unfit horses racing is what is killing racing—and thoroughbreds—in America. Everyone from the groom to the top trainer knows it, but few are willing to admit it, with notable exceptions. At a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hearing on race-day medications at which I testified last fall, famed thoroughbred owner Arthur Hancock commented: “Therapeutic drugs are given to a horse who is ailing or recovering. Is every horse in every race ill or injured?”

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens recently testified before Congress on the use of drugs to keep horses running: “Horses need down time. … Horses need time off to heal naturally. … [A] lot of good horses would still be running today, if medications weren’t used in the way they are. Would you inject your son or daughter so they could run in a track meet? I don’t think so. You would let them heal and miss a race or two until they could come back and not damage themselves more. So why would we do it to horses?”

Because there’s no federal oversight of horse racing, the Jockey Club, too, is trying to deal with the deadly proliferation of drugs. They’ve proposed sensible rules and penalties that could get the worst of the offenders out of racing altogether. But they need every one of the racing boards in 38 separate states to buy into the plan.

It’s clear that these racing heavy-hitters can’t stop the excessive drugging by themselves. The entire racing industry needs to embrace reform instead of syringes. Every trainer could start by firing the veterinarians whose answer to an ache is a regimen of drugs instead of rest. Every thoroughbred owner should fire or not hire trainers with violations. This would mean a good many track vets and trainers would be filing for unemployment. But it might also mean the beginning of clean racing—and this means fewer injuries and deaths on the racetrack.

Until this happens, don’t go to a race and don’t bet on one. If the racing industry won’t do the right thing for the right reasons, let’s make sure their already plummeting profits fall through the floor. Maybe then they’ll quit doping the horses.

Day of Play – Elm Park! – Sat., June 9

By Dianne Bruce

Fun for Families!

11 AM – 5 PM – this Saturday, Elm Park

Young children learn the essential skills they will need to become successful as adults through play! Building block towers develops skills in architecture and engineering. Finger painting develops an understanding of our senses, color and art. Playing hop-scotch develops number recognition and early math skills. Playing tag develops social and team development skills. Playing outdoors develops an understanding of science and nature.

Unfortunately the focus of young children’s play time is vanishing. Studies and statistics in the United States have been mounting and it is clear we are facing a national crisis. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2009. In the last two decades kids have lost eight hours of free play a week and 3000 US schools have eliminated recess. With an increased focus on academic study and test preparation, starting at very early ages, children today do not get valuable play time to feed their imagination.

Today’s science shows that children learn imagination, critical thinking skills and crucial problem solving skills through play. Through the Day of Play we will create six “play” areas where young children, ages 3-10, will participate in activities that are carefully designed to experience the real power of fun and games that lead to learning! Elm Park will be filled with six ”Play Areas” where children 3-10yrs old will engage in fun activities that lead to learning. In the Creative Arts Area children will design banners, hats and participate in a community weaving project. This encourages cognitive, linguistic and social development. In the Construction Area children will have the opportunity to “touch a truck” and other construction equipment.

We will have recyclable materials like cardboard boxes and plastic coffee cans for children to construct towers and bridges. This encourages gross and fine motor skills in addition to cognitive development. The Science Area will include science, technology, engineering and math related activities that will include a nature scavenger hunt, WPI robotics demonstrations, learning to become a citizen scientist and simple experiments. The activities are designed to encourage curiosity which leads to a love of learning critical to academic success.

Physical Play activities include I am Moving, I am Learning, Alphabet Yoga, an obstacle course, demonstrations and sidewalk games. We will also be creating the largest Simon Says game in Worcester. In addition to encouraging physical development we believe that it is critical that young children be encouraged to engage in physical play in an effort to stem the increasing obesity and diabetes rates in our children.

In the Language Area we will have children’s authors reading from and signing their books. There will also be related activities that will reinforce the stories that they hear. Literacy and linguistic skills are developed through listening to and retelling stories. In the Music/Dance Area we will have ongoing entertainment. At this time we have engaged Chuck and Mud, Vic and Sticks, a World Drum demonstration. All of the performances will have an interactive component. The South High School Marching Band will also perform across the park. Children will have the opportunity to make an instrument out of recyclable materials and join the parade. Music and dance encourage development across cognitive and physical domains.

Our goals for the Day of Play include bringing greater community awareness to the importance of child development and school readiness as a community responsibility. We are hosting the event at Elm Park to bring families from across the community to a green space they can use in the future for fun physical activities that may serve to reduce our growing child obesity issue. Families will be provided with simple, inexpensive activities that they can recreate at home to prepare their child for school.

Our program booklet will also provide information about community based services that can assist families if they have questions or concerns about their child(ren)s development. Through our website and Facebook/Twitter feeds, we will be providing monthly updates to keep the learning going long after the event.

*********************************

Have fun!

Parents hear over and over that they are their child’s first teacher. Every parent wants the best for their children. They want their children to enter school ready to learn and succeed. How can parents prepare their children for school? PLAY! It is how children learn. It is how children make sense of their world. It is how children develop a myriad of skills that will set them on the path to success.

Edward Street Child Services has developed a community-wide Day of Play to give parents hands on activities that they can do that day and can recreate at home. Children and families will be given fun and engaging activities that will promote learning, build imagination, and get ready for school. The day begins at 11:00 on June 9th at Elm Park. It is free and open to the public.

Our Construction Area will feature blocks and Legos. Blocks help children develop spatial skills, hand eye coordination, problem solving skills and creativity. If children work as a team they also develop language a social skills. Block play is associated with improved math skills.

The Creative Arts Area will include recycled materials that children can use to create banners. They will also create their own hats. Volunteers from the newly created Worcester Children’s Museum will help children create Fairy Houses using natural materials. While inspiring creativity, these activities will also help children develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Active Play will include sidewalk games, an obstacle course and Alphabet Fitness. We will also have an interactive karate demonstration. These activities promote gross motor development.

Our Science Area is designed to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The roots of these careers are generated through the curiosity of young children. We will have robotics demonstrations, experiments and letterboxing.
The Reading Area will feature Mother Goose on the Loose, author Jackie Penney reading her book Goodnight Worcester, Baby Llama from Llama Llama Red Pajama, Fancy Nancy and a Red Sox reading game featuring Twister from the Tornados. Literacy skills lead to success in all areas. Children will receive a free book to encourage reading at home.

The Music and Dance area will feature interactive sessions with Vic & Sticks, Spirit of Drums, McInerney Irish Step Dances and Chuck and Mud. Children will create their own instruments using recycled materials. We will end the day with the largest Simon Says in Worcester and a trip around Elm Park led by the South High Marching Band. Simon Says is a healthy way to help children develop self control and control impulsive behavior. Music and dance promote gross motor, creative and cognitive development.

Most importantly, the Day of Play will go beyond the day. Using social media we will provide families with new, fun and engaging activities on a monthly basis throughout the year. We want to help parents be effective in their role as their child’s first teacher.