01/08/2008 12:00AM

One-man crusade earns recognition


TUCSON, Ariz. - Relations between harness racing and Thoroughbred racing in this country, for the most part, follow roughly the old Bostonian axiom, which loosely quoted was:

And this is good old Boston,

The land of the bean and the cod,

Where the Lowells speak only to Lowells

And the Cabots speak only to God.

Happily, that pattern of haughty pride has been dented in recent years by several moves toward ecumenical cooperation, notably the annual convention of the 90 or so directors of the Harness Tracks of America and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

The two trade associations are almost identical in size, HTA with 44 members, TRA with 46. Four years ago, they were struck by one of those thunderbolts of clear thinking that occasionally pierce the clouds of racing management: that they shared common interests, common problems, and common solutions. They have met annually since, a little reserve still evident at times, but the joint approach vastly advanced over the breed barriers that existed previously.

When they meet again next month in St. Petersburg, Fla., another landmark will be reached. One of the honorees to be recognized is perhaps the most worthy recipient of racing honors in America today. HTA's Distinguished Service Award, a handsome equine bronze, will be presented to Dr. Scot Waterman.

Waterman does not treat horses. He cajoles and convinces and motivates racing leaders with diverse interests but one common goal: to create a network of uniform and common-sense rules on medication in North America.

It is a herculean task, not much less taxing than cleaning the Augean stables of myth and legend. There is much accumulation of waste to be removed, and new ideas to be installed. Waterman, almost single-handedly, has been the glue, from inception, that has held together the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, racing's best hope of driving edge-seekers from the temple.

Waterman has crisscrossed North America, speaking to racing commissioners everywhere and persuading them to abandon lofty words and substitute latent action.

Without Scot Waterman there would be no RMTC today, and without the RMTC racing would be floundering in a sea of danger and discord. It is the best single hope of racing to solve its illegal medication problems, and horsemen's best protection against chimerical and often confusing and contradictory rules and penalties.

Waterman did not start out to be a racing evangelical, which is what he really is today. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1990, and spent eight years as a private small-animal practitioner.

Then, convinced there were literally and figuratively bigger things to accomplish, he turned to horses and enrolled in the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona, where a host of notables in American racing today got their basic training.

Waterman graduated with honors, and while completing his final semester he began working for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force. He co-authored the task force's Supertest Report, which was released in May 2002.

That December, he showed up again in Tucson, at his alma mater's Racing Symposium. He was there to facilitate a very big idea - the development of the medication consortium - and in February 2003 he was named the organization's executive director, the title he still holds. There is not a racing commissioner worth his salt who does not know him and respect him for his quiet, no-nonsense approach to the vexing problem of cheating, and the alternative of uniform logic and solid science.

It would be nice to say the job is nearly done, but that isn't true. The trainers who populate the backstretches of America are not really familiar with the RMTC, or what it does and what it hopes to do.

Part of that blame rests on the RMTC itself, for while Scot Waterman preached the gospel to racing commissioners, who write the rules, and the scientists who provide them grist for their mills, his wearying schedule left him little time for public relations in the stable areas and front offices of the racetracks of the land.

The RMTC now is tackling that task, but so far with little progress. An effort to assess an automatic purse deduction to fund the organization has fallen far short of its goals. It is among the worthiest of causes in racing, and Scot Waterman makes it so. His Distinguished Service Award next month at the HTA-TRA meeting is one of those gratifying moments when the right man gets the credit.