02/07/2006 1:00AM

And the No. 1 rider or driver is . . . ?


LAS VEGAS - Today is mid-term exam day, and be prepared to flunk the test.

It is a one-question quiz: Name the five top money-winning jockeys and/or drivers in American horse racing today.

You may have gotten numbers 2 thru 5, but it is highly unlikely that you got the number one man right.

With the retirement of Jerry Bailey, the mantle as leading active money winner in horse racing went from Bailey to John Campbell, harness racing's greatest driver. He is winner of five Hambletonians - trotting's Kentucky Derby - and his mounts have won $232,070,251.

Here are the top five, as authenticated by Bob "Hollywood" Heyden, racing's super statistician based at The Meadowlands. He didn't make this up. He got the Thoroughbred numbers from Rhonda Norby of Equibase, and Campbell's numbers from the United States Trotting Association's chief statistician, David Carr.

John Campbell $232,143,408

Alex Solis $189,455,224

Jose Santos $181,293,976

Kent Desormeaux $179,966,290

Mike Smith $175,399,583

Campbell, 50, has been the all-time top money-winning harness driver since July 31, 1987, coming up on 19 years. In another interesting note, Heyden points out that the top six jockeys of all time in money earnings by their mounts - Pat Day, Jerry Bailey, Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens, and Eddie Delahoussaye - all are retired, while the top 20 harness racing money-winning drivers of all time still are active and driving.

Test over, now to current events.

This week, some 600 racing leaders, representing the 43 member tracks of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and the 41 of Harness Tracks of America, along with the board of directors of the 23,000-member United States Trotting Association, members of the United States Harness Writers Association, and a few other racing industry groups and their suppliers, are meeting in Las Vegas to discuss the many problems of racing.

The usual culprits will be identified and indicted: medication problems, off-shore rebate shops, declining on-track attendance, Indian gaming, restrictive regulations, lack of uniformity in rules, the need for adaptation to new realities of the marketplace, and disappearing media coverage.

A group of top speakers have been assembled, starting with MGM-Mirage chairman and CEO Terry Lanni, discussing the outlook for racing and gaming from his lofty cosmic viewpoint. The fact that the leadoff panel, a group of some of the best racing journalists in the world, will talk about Life, Death, and Resurrection - in this case of the shrinkage of newspaper coverage of the sport - indicates the importance planners of the event attribute to this critical problem.

It is very likely that while the other plagues mentioned get more attention from racing executives, this one ultimately will do more damage to racing. If new people cannot read about the game and the captivating animals and humans that make it go, there is no way solutions of the other problems will be solved longterm.

Discussing this issue will be Jay Hovdey and Jay Privman, both of Daily Racing Form; Charlie Leerhsen, executive editor of Sports Illustrated; the seven-time Eclipse-winning former Sports Illustrated writer Bill Nack; Joe Sullivan, sports editor of the Boston Globe, which recently cut racing coverage; Gary West, the intellectual racing writer of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; and Bill Christine, recently retired racing writer of the Los Angeles Times. Dave Johnson of ABC and ESPN and I will moderate the panel. In putting this group together I hope to tap the talent assembled for ideas on how to stop the bleeding.

As for illegal medication - another of the urgent problems facing racing everywhere - a highly interesting development late last month could in the long run prove a lethal weapon for racing to use against the crooks. A federal appeals court judge in New York, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, rejected a motion to dismiss the indictment of trainers Gregory Martin, Rene Poulin, and David Appelbaum in the case involving their administering performance-enhancing substances to runners in New York.

Judge Cedarbaum said such administration falls within the meaning of the federal statute covering wire fraud, and constitutes "a scheme to defraud."

This allows the case to move forward, and if that view carries at trial, racing could have a new weapon in its constant battle against those few who try to ruin and distort it through their actions.