Updated on 09/16/2011 9:48AM

Let's gather and talk - all at the same time


TUCSON, Ariz. - A thousand or more embattled troops of North American racing, from four-star generals to sergeants, will storm the foothills of the Catalina mountains here next week, heading for the fancy digs of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, its mountainside golf course, and the sermons on the mount.

The sermons are the chatter that will fill the Symposium on Racing next Tuesday to Friday, culminating with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's annual presentation. Who knows what treats lie ahead? The gathered faithful may even get to meet Rudy in person. What a thrill that would be.

Rudy Giuliani's anointment as racing's new savior has been the subject of some discussion, including a column by Steven Crist that was considerably short of a favorable review. It was titled "Why hire chameleon Rudy?" Others had their say, too. Jim O'Donnell, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, said Giuliani was hired "for one reason: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln weren't available."

On the menu

There are numerous sessions scheduled for the hectic symposium week, including:

- Gaming at tracks

- Insurance (a thorny problem)

- Marketing (naturally)

- Integrity (of course)

- Regulation (a must)

Strangely missing is the highly controversial subject of banned medication, other than what NTRA's Task Force will report.

Well, perhaps not so strangely. Controversy is not what the racing symposium - sponsored by the Race Track Industry Program of the University of Arizona - is all about. The symposium avoids controversy, almost scrupulously, and has become not so much an open discussion forum, which it was in its smaller days, but instead a hotbed of ancillary meetings, by all sorts of groups, at all times of day and night, some of them conflicting with the main schedule of speakers and events and drawing attendees from them.

The American Horse Council meets. The Jockeys' Guild and TRA and TRPB and HTA and HBPA and ARCI and AQHA and track supers and insurance experts and a myriad of other specialists get together, scheduled or ad hoc, to network and discuss their specific problems.

This is useful and valuable. And, for Arizona's racing school, profitable.

The symposium has been a highly effective fund-raiser for the university program, which has sent scores of its graduates into responsible jobs. An RTIP alumni meeting - one of the few things not officially scheduled during the week - would be an impressive gathering, almost like a Harvard get-together of lawyers. The list of distinguished graduates is far too long for this space, but chances are you can't name 10 top racing officials or figures without including at least one RTIP product. Start the B's with Bob Baffert.

There was a minor flap in scheduling this year. Each Thursday night of symposium week, the RTIP tosses a sumptuous banquet at Loews, with a comedian to lighten the heavy atmosphere of the crowded week. A few years ago it was the very funny Rita Rudner. This year it was scheduled to be Elaine Boosler. But Elaine is an anti-cruelty gal, and when she learned that the symposium was not all horse, but included some who race dogs, she abruptly canceled her contract, leaving Doug Reed and Wendy Davis, the two tigers who run the racing school and put together this shindig, scurrying for new talent. They came up with Kathleen Madigan, who undoubtedly will liven her routine with some some jokes about Elaine Boosler and the dogs.

Getting back to Rudy Giuliani. If he doesn't show up, with his lavish and very expensive new production of Look Firm and Act Tough, featuring the pick six Drexel Boys, don't be disappointed. You will be able to catch him in person - provided that all goes according to script - at the Derby in May, where he will be deified in front of the far-reaching cameras of CBS.

Now to put on the armor and head up the mountain for racing's noise-filled Decemberfest.