03/11/2003 12:00AM

United we stand, meetings to show


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - I am celebrating what is happening this week in Florida, where Thoroughbred and harness people are sitting down together and talking to one another about their mutual, and parimutuel, problems. They will discover they are one and the same.

This groundbreaking, joint annual meeting of the directors of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Harness Tracks of America, and Racetracks of Canada at the Westin Diplomat, down the street from Gulfstream Park and a few furlongs farther from Pompano Park, is a first for racing. The sessions will not solve the problems of racing, but they will demonstrate quickly that the problems are identical on both sides of the aisle, and that going it alone - as both breeds have done for years and still do - is a costly and counterproductive exercise in pride and prejudice.

The occasion is significant, and it brings together an auspicious group of racing leaders in eight panels on current issues of racing.

For openers, on the troublesome issue of medication, there will be Drs. Ken McKeever of Rutgers University and Scot Waterman, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. Dr. McKeever is working with Dr. George Maylin of Cornell University on the test for EPO, and Dr. Waterman is making inspiring progress in the difficult task of bringing disparate sides together in the critical quest to unify medication rules.

On management, Barry Schwartz of NYRA, Jim McAlpine of Magna, John Long of Churchill Downs, and David Willmot of Woodbine - four of the major players of North American racing - will be joined by TRA president Bryan Krantz of the Fair Grounds, HTA president Chris McErlean of The Meadowlands, and Bernard Goldstein, the boss of Isle of Capri Casinos and Pompano Park, to discuss the present and future of the business and sport.

Penny Chenery of Secretariat fame, and one of Thoroughbred racing's most eloquent spokespersons, will join author Mary Midkiff and Gulfstream Park director of marketing David Rovine in a discussion on attracting women to racing.

An outstanding cross-country racing media panel has Steve Crist, publisher of Daily Racing Form; Andy Beyer, columnist for the Washington Post; Charlie Leehrsen, executive editor of Sports Illustrated; Bill Christine of the Los Angeles Times; Neil Milbert of the Chicago Tribune; Bill Finley, who writes for the New York Times; and Allen Gutterman, Hollywood Park vice president of marketing.

The quality of simulcasting signals and racing on television will be the subject of a panel with Bennett Liebman, head of the Wagering and Racing Division of Albany Law School; professional players Maury Wolff and Tom Graham; and Chip Tuttle, public relations consultant to the National Throroughbred Racing Association.

International simulcasting will be addressed by Bill Hogwood, president of The Racing Network; Scott Finley of Attheraces; and Lorne Abony, CEO of Columbia Exchange Systems.

Offtrack betting will be represented on the panels by Raymond V. Casey, president of New York City OTB; Michael Connery, president of Capital District OTB, and Mea Knapp, president of Suffolk Regional OTB, both in New York; and Drew Shubeck, vice president and general manager of Magna Entertainment's The Meadows track and its six OTB parlors in western Pennsylvania.

A panel on the regulation, administration, and legislation of racing includes Ron Barbaro, chairman and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission; Sandra Lang, deputy minister of the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services of the province of Ontario; Fred Noe, executive vice president of the United States Trotting Association; Bill Oberle, speaker pro tem of the Delaware House of Representatives; and Stanley Sadinsky, chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission.

The panels will be moderated, with audience participation, by Dave Johnson of CBS, ESPN, and Premier Radio; Chris Scherf, executive vice president of TRA; and me.

Racing hopefully will learn from this gathering what it has largely ignored over the years - that mutual problems can best be solved by mutual accord and action, regardless of breed, and that - trite as it may be - in unity there is strength.