08/15/2002 11:00PM

Drugs hot topic at Round Table


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The racing industry will gather here on Sunday at the Gideon Putnam Hotel for the Jockey Club's 50th annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing to hear presentations with a decidedly 21st-century bent.

Most of the conference will focus on the future, with presentations on an ongoing project to map the equine genome and the more nebulous topic "issues and opportunities of the globalization of racing." But several presentations will also touch on current issues in racing, including the always controversial topic of drugs and drug testing in the United States.

Gary Biszantz, the outspoken horse owner and breeder who is the chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, is scheduled to give a speech on the "owner's perspective of drugs." He said Friday that he will call for a rollback in drug use during his presentation.

"I'm going to talk about the facts, because the facts don't lie," Biszantz said. "The reality is that all we have done during the past 30 years with medication is reduce field size, cut the number of races a horse will run in its life to half, and cut the years of a horse's career from four to two. We all know what needs to be done, and now we need to do it."

Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, will precede Biszantz with a presentation on the progress made by an industry-wide consortium that is attempting to dramatically restructure drug rules in the U.S. The group, which first met in December and has met twice since, is examining rules that could be adopted nationwide by racing jurisdictions and is exploring how to fund and administer a national office in charge of funding drug research and directing the sport's drug testing.

The NTRA, which has largely taken the spotlight at the Round Table since the organization's inception in 1997, will direct the globalization presentations. The chairman of Ascot Racecourse in England, the Marquess of Hartington, is scheduled to speak, as is Tim Smith, the NTRA's commissioner, and D.G. Van Clief, the vice chairman of the NTRA and president of Breeders' Cup.

The globalization topic is a departure from the NTRA's presentations in the past, which have largely focused on the organization's progress and its programs.

Dr. Douglas Antczak, the director of the James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University in New York, will give the presentation of the international Horse Genome Project. Mapping the genome will potentially lead to new treatments for diseases and physical maladies, supporters of the effort have said.

To open the conference, Thoroughbred owners John Oxley and Steve Duncker will give presentations on promoting horse ownership, an effort being led by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.