OTBO Youth Day at Thistledown was a Tremendous Success!!!

Mike Annechino



Over 70 people, with more than 55 kids aged 8-18, came to Thistledown on July 12th for the OTBO’s first Youth Day at the track.
Organized by Cathy Gale of the OTBO (with help from board members Sam Klein and Kevin McIntyre), everyone participated in complete tours of both the front and backside from 8 AM until they left in the afternoon. Thistledown Management led by Patrick Ellsworth and Patrick Mackey even treated the kids to a great pizza lunch on the 6th floor where they were able to see races from that unique vantage point.
More than 25 people at TDN helped make this work by explaining to the kids exactly what they do and how it affects the horses. A big thank you to everyone and a complete list is posted below of all those who helped. Every person was extremely enthusiastic and did a wonderful job that really resonated with all the kids and their parents too – many of which had never been to the racetrack before!
It was a real testament to just how much everyone connected to racing loves their horses as well as the outstanding commitment they make each and every day to their care and welfare. This really came out in every talk and stop we made. The kids and their parents all expressed this to us all afternoon long.
The kids themselves were incredibly respectful and had a great time. You can see their smiles in JJ Zamaiko’s picture above (which he copied and gave to all of them – thanks JJ!) The talk on their bus for the ride home was all about the fun they had and when could they come back!
The OTBO thanks everyone who helped make this a great day. We hope to make this an annual event at all three of our racetracks going forward.
This is how the Youth Day went along with the people that made it possible:
8-8:30 Gather and breakfast. Cathy Gale, Sam Klein, Kevin McIntyre.
8:30 – 9:00 Raul Nieto (groom) Brought out a 2 year old from the Radosevich barn for the kids to see, pet, understand.
9-9:20 : watched horses swim (Gary King great job explaining) during a rain deluge that no one complained about!
9:20-9:50: watched horses along the rail at the track train especially 2 year olds. Talked to outriders (Kayla Stull) and jockeys (Chelsey Keiser).
9:50-10:10 – Dr. Shell did a nice job showing kids the moving hospital truck, equipment, medicines, and answering questions. Two female vet techs also answered questions.
10:10-10:35 – Nikki Higham brought out a pony and a racehorse and showed the kids many parts of grooming, feed programs, etc.
10:35-10:40 – Nestor Rivera let the kids walk through his shed row and see where the horses live, etc.
10:40-10:45 – Carlos Perez (jockey Agent) explained his role , purses, how jockeys get paid, etc.
10:45-11:00 Cole LoGuidice showed kids how to shoe a horse, touch and see the different shoes, etc.
11:00-11:05 – visited Barn #2 – the manure barn…and discussed shavings, straw, etc. The kids liked this!
11:10-11:20 Richie Zielinski showed the kids through the tack shop and he and Kate Morgan discussed various equipment. Special thanks to Kate who accompanied us all morning and answered hundreds of questions!
11:25-12:15 – Paddock. Met with Jane Magrell (paddock judge and entry clerk and ex jockey); Ryan the EMT went over his role; Hilary McKanas told them what the Identifier does and gave them handouts; Luis Rivera (jockey) came out and told them his story and answered questions; Brian Illiano (bookkeeper explained his job), and Don Stemmons (state steward) explained his role and thanked the kids for coming. Went through the silks room and saw what they looked like.
12:15- 12:20 JJ Zamaiko (track photographer) explained his role in the winners circle and took an amazing group shot which he then printed and gave out 60 copies to everyone!
12:25-2: TDN (Patrick Ellsworth and Patrick Mackey) provided a pizza/pop lunch on the 6th floor. Kids got to see the starting gate from behind and watch races from above. Took pictures with the horse statue and looked at silks and track. Played trivia game organized by Cathy Gale.
2-3:00 Stewards invited kids to the 7th floor – rarely allowed – so they could see things up there. Got to see the announcer (Matt Hook) too.
3:30 – All kids got to go in the winners circle for the picture when Gary Johnson won. Thanks for that!
(Any names spelled wrong are on me. Apologies in advance! If I left anyone out, again my bad and not intentional.)
EVERYTHING went off without complications or issues. Not one. Amazing…and a testimony to everyone’s cooperation and hard work.
Thanks again for making this a special day for so many kids and their families. It is heartwarming to me when racetrackers come together to show the best in our sport – the people and the horses!!! Job well done to everyone! Mike Annechino



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