08/17/2007 12:00AM

Account betting a hot topic at Saratoga Round Table


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Last year at this time, a horseplayer had a reasonable chance of sitting down at a home computer and playing nearly every racetrack in the country using only one in-home wagering account.

Times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. The entry earlier this year of Churchill Downs Inc. into the account-wagering market - the only growing segment of parimutuel wagering - has divided in-home wagering into two camps, with one side being those tracks and account-wagering companies aligned with Churchill Downs and its partner, Magna Entertainment, and those aligned with Television Games Network.

On Sunday in Saratoga Springs, the top officials of Churchill Downs and TVG will appear at the Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing to explain why the split occurred and what the future of in-home wagering might look like.

The explanations are not likely to satisfy in-home horseplayers who are still smarting over having signals pulled from their preferred account-wagering operations. Officials of Churchill Downs and TVG have said that attempts to bridge the gap between the two companies have been unsuccessful, and neither side is known to be talking to each other.

Bob Evans, the chief executive of Churchill Downs, will speak on behalf of his company at the Round Table, while David Nathanson, the general manager of TVG, will provide that company's explanation.

Speaking between the two

company executives will be Joe Santanna, the president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, an organization that was instrumental in getting the two sides to cooperate for at least one day. Earlier this month, Churchill and Magna made the signal from the Claiming Crown at Ellis Park available to TVG and its partners, largely at the behest of the national horsemen's association, which runs the Claiming Crown as a non-profit.

The Round Table is an annual event put on by The Jockey Club in order to discuss critical issues in racing. In recent years, the event has focused most resolutely on drug abuse, and this year, officials dealing with medication issues will once again figure prominently in the lineup of speakers.

Ed Bowen, the president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, and Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board, will issue a report on progress on equine health issues as a result of a conference held last fall. Since that conference, a number of racing jurisdictions have adopted recommendations that were issued by the conference

organizers, including a prohibition on toe-grab horseshoes, which have been shown in research to play a disproportionate role in catastrophic breakdowns on the racetrack.

In addition, Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, will provide a report on the progress of the group in getting racing jurisdictions to adopt model rules to

govern medication use. The group most recently has begun working on a model rule that would prohibit the use of anabolic steroids within 30 days of a race, a prohibition that, if adopted, could lead to widespread changes in American Thoroughbred racing, where anabolic steroids are widely used by trainers.