Updated on 09/15/2011 2:34PM

Tucson's big hit is a video game

Email
John Eastwood
Attendees of the 28th Symposium on Racing race against each other Wednesday on Sega's Derby Owners Club game.

TUCSON, Ariz. - Sega Enterprises is at the Symposium trying to sell racetracks a video-game system that company officials said is one of the most popular games in Japan and Hong Kong. The game system, which costs about $150,000, includes a giant video-screen and eight sit-down computer monitors. For a fee, a player can select a horse, name it, train it, feed it, and race it against seven other players at more than 120 racetracks.

After a player is done, the horse's name and data are printed out on a card. The card can be entered into any other game system in the world, Sega officials said, and the player can continue with the same horse or horses he has worked to develop.

Peter Gustafson, a Sega director of sales and marketing, said that in Japan many players have rolodexes full of cards of different horses.

The game system is quickly becoming the most popular attraction at the Symposium, where shouts from winning and losing connections seem to continually reverberate through the exhibition area. National Thoroughbred Racing Association officials said they have initiated discussions with Sega about possibly purchasing a system. Coincidentally, the announcer shouts "Go, baby, go!" in the stretch run of every race.

Which rules are best?

Uniform medication rules is the hot topic of the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing here, which officially began on Wednesday with a panel analyzing drug testing and medications.

Uniform medication rules are like Mom and apple pie - everybody is for them. The 10 panelists threw their support behind the agreement reached Tuesday night by a broad-based group that called for the industry to support uniform medication rules and drug-testing policies in all U.S. racing jurisdictions.

The issue, though, is complicated. The University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program released a study at the panel that said that more than 90 percent of all trainers and owners want uniform medication rules. But the trainer and owners were nearly equally split on whether they believed those medication rules should allow more raceday medications or fewer.

"Everyone thinks there is a problem, yet they totally disagree on what the problem is," said John Walzak, the RTIP's associate director.

Members of the panel audience also pointed out one of the most significant problems in implementing uniform policies - identifying the state that should serve as the national model. Should it be New York, considered the most stringent state? Or Kentucky, which is considered the most liberal? Or a state lying ideologically in between the two?

Alex Waldrop, the president and general manager of Churchill Downs in Louisville, said that Kentucky probably should not be considered the model. "Someone needs to step up and explain why you can give a [medication] cocktail on race day," Waldrop said, referring to combinations of anti-bleeding and anti-inflammatory agents that are legal to administer in Kentucky.