06/30/2003 11:00PM

Taking the preventive approach


TUCSON, Ariz. - Racing's Medication and Testing Consortium meets again in two weeks, this time in Dallas. The group will continue its vital work of unifying medication rules and advancing research on currently undetectable illegal medication, the scourge of American racing.

While its 30 or so members from across the full spectrum of Thoroughbred, harness, and Quarter Horse racing work on that aspect of racing welfare, a young man in south Florida has, through foresight, persuasion, and inspiring cooperation, forged new boundaries in the battle for racing integrity.

His name is Mark Loewe, and he is the director of operations and racing at Pompano Park, the posh harness track in Pompano Beach that was built and operated for years by the late Frederick Van Lennep and his wife, Frances Dodge Van Lennep. The Van Lenneps also owned Castleton Farm in Lexington, Ky., and Fred served as chairman of the American Horse Council, racing's representative in the halls of Congress and elsewhere.

Loewe is a quiet, savvy, and highly professional racetrack executive, low-key but ultra-efficient and knowledgeable. Results rather than rhetoric are his style and substance.

He is concerned about security, and he became convinced, as have others, that privately operated offtrack training centers can be a source of trouble.

Such centers are, in most states, beyond the reach of racing commissions. They shouldn't be, because it's illogical to have commissions control and supervise racing and not have control or supervision over the places where horses are prepared for it.

Mark Loewe decided to do something about it.

He held a series of meetings with the owners and operators of two of south Florida's major training centers that provide horses for Pompano. He had John Beatrice, Pompano's security director, and Pete Lang, the supervisor of Standardbred Investigative Services, the arm of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau that serves harness racing, attend the meetings. And he made sure that Joe Hartmann, who represents the horsemen, was on hand. Together they hammered out an agreement that goes into effect when Pompano opens its fall season Oct. 10.

The agreement is a landmark document, and it is tough. Here is how it reads, in part:

"To maintain the integrity of Pompano Park's racing program and the protection of the customers and patrons of Pompano Park, any horse owner/trainer, or agent thereof, licensee, professional, including veterinarians, stable-hands, and/or track employees, who enter upon Pompano Park's property for any reason, hereby voluntarily consents to any reasonable search, by persons in authority, including Pompano Park security personnel and members of Standardbred Investigative Services. Pompano Park reserves the right to conduct periodic searches at any time, with or without notice or permission, of any person, personal property or other item, vehicle, barn, or any other physical location, locked or unlocked, that is located on Pompano Park's property.

"In addition, horsemen that ship in to race at Pompano Park must be stabled at a farm or location that allows inspections and searches, unless said farm or location is exempted by Pompano Park management. They must also voluntarily consent to any reasonable search, by persons in authority including Pompano Park security personnel and members of Standardbred Investigative Services, at any farm or location that stables said race horses.

"Any horseman that is stabled off the grounds, and refuses to consent to the above conditions, will not be allowed to enter horses at Pompano Park."

Obviously Pompano's general manager, Dick Feinberg, and president, Bernard Goldstein, signed off on this. So did Eric Cherry, the owner, and Terry Tucker, the general manager, of the South Florida Training Center, and so did Richard Bowman, general manager of Sunshine Meadows, another facility where Pompano horses train. All of them, along with Hartmann and his Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, have done a service for racing.

They have closed the barn door before the horse got loose. That alone is refreshing in racing these days.