What I Don't Know Yet

Archive for the ‘Horse Racing’ Category

The Runs for the Roses? The other race to Derby Day

In Epidemiology, Horse Racing, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Louisville, Science and Medical Research on April 25, 2018 at 4:14 pm

catchyWeek 1, Sept. 3-9, 2017:
One case of hepatitis A

Rui Zhao hunkers behind his twin computer monitors. Most visitors to the epidemiologist’s uncomfortably cramped office talk to his brow and the short black hair on the top of his head. They may glimpse his eyes when he looks up from his screens. On the wall to his left are small stuffed toys of irregular shapes, each a cuddly version of some nasty germ. From this third-floor office at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, Zhao watches other germs work their way across Louisville. In the 90-degree days of early September, it’s a bit too soon to think about influenza, which will sweep through nursing homes in cold weather, taking lives as it does most every year. More of interest now: the chronic liver diseases hepatitis B and C. In fact, cases of hepatitis B are dancing upward in the metro area. Hepatitis C is already considered an epidemic, although the number of new cases is tiny.

Of hepatitis A, there’s a single case. And there’s no case the following week. It’s meaningless noise in the ebb and flow of the 25 or so infectious diseases surveilled by the state. Each year, one or two people in the city — and, rarely, as many as five — will contract the hepatitis A virus. They travel to a country where it’s common, endemic. They bring it home from mission trips or as a souvenir from an exotic vacation. More frequently, travelers never know they have it. About 30 percent of adults with hepatitis A produce no symptoms.

But for the unlucky, it can be brutal, bringing low-grade fever, headache, weakness and exhaustion, diarrhea, sudden nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain, especially under the ribs on the right side, where the liver sits. Stools turn pale and urine dark. There may be intense itching. The white of the eye and skin often yellow, another sign that the virus is in the liver. And that’s the end of it, usually. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A doesn’t settle in for a lifetime, grinding away at the liver. Uncomfortable? Absolutely. Miserable? Often. Life-threatening? Only in people older than 50 and those with other health problems. And it’s self-resolving, with no cure but time. It’s also highly contagious, most likely to spread while its host feels tip-top, before discomfort sets in. Any virus shed during infection lingers on surfaces for months. It is frequently transmitted by food, and while it succumbs to soap and water, or near-boiling temperatures, gel sanitizers can’t touch it.

Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, infect via body fluids like blood, semen or vaginal secretions — the same pathways taken by the virus that causes AIDS. Since February 2017, a combined hepatitis A-B vaccine has been offered to visitors at the syringe-exchange sites operated by Metro Health and Wellness. There is no vaccine against the relatively new virus hepatitis C, which was discovered in 1989 and originally called non-A, non-B hepatitis. The syringe-exchange clinic is one sure way for the health department to reach a group of people normally driven into the shadows, a population vulnerable to a variety of diseases.

The importance of such contact is about to increase. The question is, will it be enough? By April, few will think so.

 

Weeks 2-5, Sept. 10-Oct. 7:
Three new cases of hepatitis A. Total: 4

The Courier Journal is full of the troubles facing the University of Louisville basketball program as October rolls in with 70- and 80-degree days and enough sunshine to convince anyone that summer will stretch on forever. Zhao notes that hepatitis A cases are now double the number seen in a normal year. But whether those four cases are significant isn’t clear. There’s also an unusual surge in false-positive hep A tests. He always sees a few. Every year, three or four people will test positive, yet their illness makes no sense. Usually, these cases of mistaken viral identity involve women 60 and older who have symptoms that would fit any number of diseases, including hepatitis A. It’s essentially a bad joke played by an aging immune system. Immune defenses lose precision with each passing year; our bodies are more prone to interpret any number of ailments as an attack on the liver and ramp up antibody production to fight a phantom infection.

For the rest of these story, go to Louisville.com

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Dead Horses Have Babies, Clones Compete, Superhorse Has Arrived

In Cloning, Horse Racing, Science, Science and Medical Research, Writing samples on April 16, 2013 at 7:26 am

How to get a baby horse by any method except sex. I wrote this story for the April issue of Louisville Magazine.

The colt was born this morning. Now shy and spindly, it clomps lightly on supermodel legs, a bit dazed beside the mare that birthed him. Up and down the barn aisle are other mares with newborns or mares fatly pregnant. One Morgan mare, a month overdue, her body swollen and heavy, seems to slosh and sway in her stall.

The mares are all surrogates, the hothouse incubators for champion embryos. While the show-mare mothers continue to prance in the ring, their progeny take up residence in the wombs of genetic strangers who play mother and wet nurse. The privileged champion, like a well-bred Victorian lady, hands off the messy parts without missing a hoofbeat.

A short walk away , in the main veterinary building at Equine Services in Simpsonville, it is fretful filly day. Seaforth’s Bonnie Lass stands in a red metal stall, sensitive to every movement in the room. Her ears point straight up and flick nervously, like receivers snatching at stray signals. She is sedated, but you wouldn’t know it. She could not be more watchful.

Behind her, Scott Bennett pulls on a clear blue plastic glove that goes all the way up to his armpit.

He’ll need it.

Bennett, the veterinarian who owns Equine Services, is about to retrieve an embryo via the back end of the antsy mare. 

HERE’S A LINK TO THE REST OF THE STORY…

Horse Cloning Story COLOR

Racing into Genetics!

In Horse Racing on May 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

I’m pleased to report my first Scientific American byline. 

Born to Run

When the Kentucky Derby winner crosses the finish line in front of 160,000 roaring spectators on May 5, there’s a good chance it will have two copies of a gene that makes a horse a sprinter.

The so-called speed gene, which several laboratories say determines whether a horse prefers a short sprint, a marathon or something in between, is just one of the genetic markers identified in the search for the roots of elite performance in thoroughbreds. Now the race is on among five or six commercial laboratories to convince thoroughbred breeders and buyers that testing for this gene and other markers is the road to the Triple Crown. In the meantime, the geneticists behind these companies scramble to lay claim to the best markers for athletic traits. Major thoroughbred farms are signing up horses for testing, even though some say they’re not sure what the results mean.

“We don’t know what to make of it,” says Elliott Walden, president, CEO and racing manager of Winstar Farms in Versailles, Ky. Winstar, the 685-hectare birthplace of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, is dabbling in genetic testing. “We don’t know how to evaluate the information. We’re still figuring it out.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Only Myself to Blame

In Betting, Breeders' Cup, Horse Racing, Losing on November 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

L is not just for Laidman. Photo by Joey Harrison.

I’m a loser.

I lose keys, gloves, hats, phones, money, passports. I usually have to replace my driver’s license before it expires. I once lost my glasses the day after I picked them up from the eye doctor. I’ve improved with age. I have strategies: Put things in the same place each time. Double check. Buy many pairs of cheap gloves and hats.

But it seemed my losing streak was extending beyond its usual parameters this weekend. With my two dollar bets in race after race at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs today and Friday, I was making horses lose. If I bet on a horse heavily favored to win, it came in dead last, or second last.

By 4 o’clock this afternoon all doubt was erased: I was jinxing horses. Goldakova proved it. I reached the betting window just as it closed and was unable to bet for her. She became the first horse to ever win three Breeders’ Cup races. Thank Aqua Buddha I had not betted. It was a thrilling run. Made me breathless just to see it.

My suspicions confirmed, I vowed not to bet on Zenyatta. I wanted to see her become the second Breeders’ Cup horse to three-peat. I wanted to witness her beat the boys again. So when race 11 rolled around, The Breeders Cup Classic, I picked Blame, No. 5. I bet him to win, place, or show, which for me was big money. I spent six dollars.

I never took my eyes off Zenyatta from the moment she broke from the gate. The crowd groaned when the announcer said, “And Zenyatta, dead last.” But hope is a thing with hooves. “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” I screamed. The crowd roared like it hadn’t all day.

Then the unbelievable; as the horses came around the final turn in front of the stands, Zenyatta turned it on, covering ground with her legendary stride, and magically, she was gaining on the leader, No. 5, Blame. It was a photo finish, although we already knew the outcome. On the large screens midfield, the finish replayed, stopping at that moment when Blame’s nose was clearly ahead of Queen Z’s.

I was crushed. Then it hit me: I’d won. I’d actually won a bet! I put my hand into my right back pocket, the pocket where I always put my betting slips, pulled out the ticket and saw the No. 5. Across the top of the ticket it said “Race 9.”

Race 9? This was Race 11! Where was my ticket? I sat on a bench and dumped out my purse. I pawed through my wallet. I checked all my pockets. And then I did it all again. I started picking up tickets off the ground. I’m sure I looked pathetic.

But the ticket was gone.

My first winning bet, lost.

Gone.

Like I said, I’m a loser.

I’m a loser.

I lose keys, gloves, hats, phones, money, passports. I usually have to replace my driver’s license before it expires. I once lost my glasses the day after I picked them up from the eye doctor. I’ve improve with age. I have strategies: Put things in the same place each time. Double check. Buy may pairs of cheap gloves and hats.

But it seemed my losing streak was extending beyond its usual parameters this weekend. With my two dollar bets in race after race at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs today and Friday, I was making horses lose. If I bet on a horse that was heavily favored to win, it came in dead last, or second last.

By 4 o’clock this afternoon all doubt was erased: I was jinxing horses. Goldakova proved it. I reached the betting window just as it closed and was unable to bet for her. She became the first horse to ever win three Breeders’ Cup races. Thank Aqua Buddha I had not betted. It was a thrilling run. Made me breathless just to see it.

My suspicions confirmed, I vowed not to bet on Zenyatta. I wanted to see her become the second Breeders’ Cup horse to three-peat. I wanted to witness her beat the boys again. So when race 11 rolled around, The Breeders Cup Classic, I picked Blame, No. 5. I bet him to win, place, or show, which for me was big money. I spent six dollars.

I never took my eyes off Zenyatta from the moment she broke from the gate. The crowd groaned when the announcer said, “And Zenyatta, dead last.” But hope is a thing with hooves. “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” I was screaming. The crowd was roaring like they hadn’t all day.

Then the unbelievable; as the horses came around the final turn in front of the stands, Zenyatta turned it on, covering ground with her legendary stride, and magically, she was gaining on the leader, No. 5, Blame. It was a photo finish, although we already knew the outcome. On the large screens midfield, the finish replayed, stopping at that moment when Blame’s nose was clearly ahead of Queen Z’s.

I was crushed. Then it hit me: I’d won. I’d actually won a bet! I put my hand into my right back pocket, the pocket where I always put my betting slips, pulled out the ticket and saw the No. 5. Across the top of the ticket it said “Race 9.”

Race 9? This was Race 11! Where was my ticket? I sat on a bench and dumped out my purse. I pawed through my wallet. I check all my pockets. And then I did it all again. I started picking up tickets off the ground. I’m sure I looked pathetic.

But the ticket was gone.

My first winning bet, lost.

Gone.

Like I said, I’m a loser.

 

 

I’m a loser.

I lose keys, gloves, hats, phones, money, passports. I usually have to replace my driver’s license before it expires. I once lost my glasses the day after I picked them up from the eye doctor. I’ve improve with age. I have strategies: Put things in the same place each time. Double check. Buy may pairs of cheap gloves and hats.

But it seemed my losing streak was extending beyond its usual parameters this weekend. With my two dollar bets in race after race at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs today and Friday, I was making horses lose. If I bet on a horse that was heavily favored to win, it came in dead last, or second last.

By 4 o’clock this afternoon all doubt was erased: I was jinxing horses. Goldakova proved it. I reached the betting window just as it closed and was unable to bet for her. She became the first horse to ever win three Breeders’ Cup races. Thank Aqua Buddha I had not betted. It was a thrilling run. Made me breathless just to see it.

My suspicions confirmed, I vowed not to bet on Zenyatta. I wanted to see her become the second Breeders’ Cup horse to three-peat. I wanted to witness her beat the boys again. So when race 11 rolled around, The Breeders Cup Classic, I picked Blame, No. 5. I bet him to win, place, or show, which for me was big money. I spent six dollars.

I never took my eyes off Zenyatta from the moment she broke from the gate. The crowd groaned when the announcer said, “And Zenyatta, dead last.” But hope is a thing with hooves. “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” I was screaming. The crowd was roaring like they hadn’t all day.

Then the unbelievable; as the horses came around the final turn in front of the stands, Zenyatta turned it on, covering ground with her legendary stride, and magically, she was gaining on the leader, No. 5, Blame. It was a photo finish, although we already knew the outcome. On the large screens midfield, the finish replayed, stopping at that moment when Blame’s nose was clearly ahead of Queen Z’s.

I was crushed. Then it hit me: I’d won. I’d actually won a bet! I put my hand into my right back pocket, the pocket where I always put my betting slips, pulled out the ticket and saw the No. 5. Across the top of the ticket it said “Race 9.”

Race 9? This was Race 11! Where was my ticket? I sat on a bench and dumped out my purse. I pawed through my wallet. I check all my pockets. And then I did it all again. I started picking up tickets off the ground. I’m sure I looked pathetic.

But the ticket was gone.

My first winning bet, lost.

Gone.

Like I said, I’m a loser.

I’m a loser.

I lose keys, gloves, hats, phones, money, passports. I usually have to replace my driver’s license before it expires. I once lost my glasses the day after I picked them up from the eye doctor. I’ve improve with age. I have strategies: Put things in the same place each time. Double check. Buy may pairs of cheap gloves and hats.

But it seemed my losing streak was extending beyond its usual parameters this weekend. With my two dollar bets in race after race at the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs today and Friday, I was making horses lose. If I bet on a horse that was heavily favored to win, it came in dead last, or second last.

By 4 o’clock this afternoon all doubt was erased: I was jinxing horses. Goldakova proved it. I reached the betting window just as it closed and was unable to bet for her. She became the first horse to ever win three Breeders’ Cup races. Thank Aqua Buddha I had not betted. It was a thrilling run. Made me breathless just to see it.

My suspicions confirmed, I vowed not to bet on Zenyatta. I wanted to see her become the second Breeders’ Cup horse to three-peat. I wanted to witness her beat the boys again. So when race 11 rolled around, The Breeders Cup Classic, I picked Blame, No. 5. I bet him to win, place, or show, which for me was big money. I spent six dollars.

I never took my eyes off Zenyatta from the moment she broke from the gate. The crowd groaned when the announcer said, “And Zenyatta, dead last.” But hope is a thing with hooves. “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” I was screaming. The crowd was roaring like they hadn’t all day.

Then the unbelievable; as the horses came around the final turn in front of the stands, Zenyatta turned it on, covering ground with her legendary stride, and magically, she was gaining on the leader, No. 5, Blame. It was a photo finish, although we already knew the outcome. On the large screens midfield, the finish replayed, stopping at that moment when Blame’s nose was clearly ahead of Queen Z’s.

I was crushed. Then it hit me: I’d won. I’d actually won a bet! I put my hand into my right back pocket, the pocket where I always put my betting slips, pulled out the ticket and saw the No. 5. Across the top of the ticket it said “Race 9.”

Race 9? This was Race 11! Where was my ticket? I sat on a bench and dumped out my purse. I pawed through my wallet. I check all my pockets. And then I did it all again. I started picking up tickets off the ground. I’m sure I looked pathetic.

But the ticket was gone.

My first winning bet, lost.

Gone.

Like I said, I’m a loser.

Random Bits: The Breeders’ Cup

In Betting, Horse Racing, Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

 

The famous photo sequence by Eadweard Muybridge.

The website louisville.com has my Breeders’ Cup stories online.

 

Find them here:

http://www.louisville.com/content/downs-forever-will-churchill-downs-become-cups-permanent-home-breeders-cup

http://www.louisville.com/content/champions-world-breeders-cup-facts-and-figures-breeders-cup

http://www.louisville.com/content/flying-horses-how-foreign-race-horses-get-churchill-downs-breeders-cup

http://www.louisville.com/content/horse-medicine-veterinary-care-race-horses-breeders-cup

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