NJ To Prosecute Racing's Wrongdoers?

Published: January 23, 2012 11:21 am EST

Prosecution, not drug testing, is the way to ensure integrity in harness racing, Jeff Gural told the sold-out crowd at the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association Awards Banquet in Toronto on Saturday, January 21


“Some individuals will always be one step ahead of any testing procedures,” he said,” but once a couple of people are taken away in handcuffs, that will be a big deterrent.”

Gural emphasized that he’s prepared to use his newly-forged relationship with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office to make prosecution for illegal drug use in racing a stern reality.

Restoring a level playing field for participants is integral to Gural’s vision for the 'New Meadowlands.' He was candid with the crowd, laying out the sequence that led to his current 30-year lease on the East Rutherford, New Jersey property owned by the State of New Jersey.

Even before the current meet opened on January 6, Gural instituted some major changes designed to revive the fan base at the track. Applications had to be made to participate and some people were not accepted. Others are currently there on probation, he said.
Gural also cautioned the driver colony that they needed to do their part, and at their request he re-banked the 'Big M’s turns to benefit horses coming from off the flow.

Horseplayers have responded to what Gural now sees as a much better racing product by increasing the on-track handle by 25-30 per cent on the first three weekends.

A longtime owner and breeder himself, Gural also briefly alluded to his intention to restrict entry to major races at his racetracks to offspring whose sires have raced as four-year-olds.

He sees instituting this policy effective with the 2013 breeding season, as “a game changer” and one that will bring the crowds out to watch stellar sophomores return to the track.

Gural is well aware that there’s vocal opposition to this part of his revitalization package, but he thanked the Woodbine Entertainment Group for its declared intention to support the policy at their tracks.

Key to the game plan for the New Meadowlands is the construction of a smaller, ultra-modern grandstand set to open in 2013.

Bob Green of the Toronto firm of Climans Green Liang joined Gural on stage with renderings of the proposed new facility. It includes a four-tier clubhouse, simulcasting area, owner’s club and 2,200 seats in the main grandstand.

“Every effort is being made to maximize sightlines to the track,” the architect told the group.

Green’s firm specializes in racetracks and racinos. They built Georgian Downs and also Gural’s Tioga Downs in Nichols, New York.

Gural referred to the capitalization of the project and said he has now raised $75 million of the $100 million required. Ultimately, though, he thinks it will take a casino to really turn things around at the Meadowlands.

“In all honesty, I wouldn’t have done all this if I didn’t think I’d get a casino. Hopefully a casino will get me even for all the money I’ve lost over the years in owning, breeding and at the racetrack,” he joked.

“I guess you could say it’s a $100 million bet.”

Greg Blanchard hosted the awards ceremonies which followed the keynote speaker, as the breeders behind the Ontario Sires Stakes top success stories of 2011 were honoured with trophies and framed racing photos.

Randy Waples earned the Lampman Cup for the first time as top OSS driver and Bob McIntosh again took the Johnston Cup title as top trainer.

Two particularly prestigious awards to individuals are presented annually at the SBOA Banquet and only unveiled that evening. This year, Mike Wilson of Warrawee Farm in Rockwood, Ont. won the Chris Van Bussel Award for service to SBOA and to the industry. The Lloyd Chisholm Award for meritorious service went to John Levy of The Score for his extraordinary media efforts to highlight harness racing.

Broodmare of the Year Awards, sponsored by Master Feeds, go annually to horses whose offspring have earned distinction not only in the OSS, but beyond. This year’s pacing Broodmare of the year was Warrawee Farm’s Mystic Mistress (Dexter Nukes--Pam Ryan), dam of the winners of over $3.8 million, including standouts Mystician and Camystic.

Trotting Broodmare of the Year was Dave and Mary Lemon’s Daylon Marvel (Super Pleasure--Miss Marvel), whose production record is highlighted by their own $1.2-million earner Daylon Magician.




Mr. Hayward: Where have you been. We have had everything you mention and more. Mr Gural knows it very well since he is also an owner. The slap on the wrist penalties and the well know ways around "rules?regualtions" have merely allowed the continuation of the problems. Things are at such a desperate level that Mr Gural and those who agree with him(and it seems there are many), are finally saying "tough justice" must be meeted out!!

In reply to by Dr Wayne Robinski

Mr.Robinski,how can you say we've done all I've talked about? WHEN WAS THIS? The truth is we've NEVER had what I am promoting. When did we have ZERO TOLERANCE? When did we have a life ban for trainers caught with a needle? NEVER !!!!

I do agree there are to many rules and regulations.Keep it simple, ZERO TOLERANCE. As long as they allow horses to be shipped in to race from private farms we will have ALL of these issues.

The ORC should stop producing a booklet that tells trainers how much of a banned substance they can use without getting caught.What a mixed signal to send a trainer. Trainers should not be allowed to have a needle in there possesion. If they do, it's LIFE.

Guys,anyone who knows me COULD say I might know a little about pre race for horses. This is why I am telling you STOP LASIX, IT IS BEING USED TO MASK OTHER DRUGS.


I think some of the people so quick to agree with Mr. Gural's latest scheme should learn the difference between prosecution and persecution. Take the instance of Brad Forward losing a year of his career when ORC decided they didn't have enough evidence to take to trial. That's persecution, not prosecution. Mr. Pena being banned from racing at Mr. Gural's tracks persecution, not prosecution.

Owners do not get taken to Court. Drivers should be prosecuted after a good investigation by ORC. Trainers should be fined for small violations, then thrown out if serious bad conduct is discovered.

I shudder to think what would happen if all trainers and owners had immediate prosecution. They would leave racing and without owners at the sales, no fresh horses are bought.

A problem all racetracks face; some more than others.For once, I have my lips zippered. Can't think of a fool-proof way of solving these infractions.

Perhaps Julian Fantino (Former Chief of Police in Toronto, now MP in Ottawa) would shed some light on this problem. If he can't come up with a good way of getting things back to normal, then nobody can. He has a mind for solving problems at every criminal level.

In watching Mr. Fantino over the years, I can see that he never gives up and has many surprises up his sleeve.
Will back down from no one.

In reply to by flipper

As long as connections use the black box....pharmaceuticals will affect our sport for the worse. Do something about that and we won't have to prosecute anyone. If not be honest about it, the black box is used to "pretest" animals , so they don't test positive. Find a way to beat the black box and you can significantly end illegal pharmaceutical enhancement. You can outlaw whatever you want but if it doesn't show up at a level to be caught in post race testing, the betting public gets scammed. Maybe "The Stan Bergstein Award" or the like to someone who comes up with a solution to catching the selfish people who are ruining our chance to reclaim our niche with the betting public.

I have been amazed my whole adult life that harness racing is in decline. This sport was the NASCAR of the nineteenth century. Teamed with the internet and the establishment of sensible objectives for live racing and it's natural accompaniment to courting high rollers and the average bettor, I see enormous potential for this sport. Just attack the criticism that makes my stomach roll when I make my case to people that I meet: "It's all fixed"

Please consider that the increase in handle may be a direct result of an increase in the quality of racing! Last year was full of low level races that few serious handicappers would chance to wager.

WOW More great news by Mr.Gural.Not only would prosecution and stronger drug testing make it more of a level playing field for other trainers,but it would help protect the 2 things that matter most in harness racing'THE HORSES and THE BETTING PUBLIC'.

In reply to by j.mills

NO NOT GOOD NEWS !! Prosecution of trainers ? Thats what we need,trainers being put in jail.Thats great publicity isnt it.Why would you want to participate in anyway in racing if it had to stoop to that depth just to keep trainers in line.Put them in JAIL for a bad test ? Am I really hearing this? Why all the bad publicity.All you have to do is supply the trainer with proper security AT the track and have ZERO TOLERANCE to bad test or needles in your possesion.

The key is you have to make sure the trainer has to be supplied a hi level of security at the track.Just like the OLD DAYS when a trainer stabled at the track he was racing at.If you want to race a horse at WEG the horse has to be on grounds for at least 30 days prior to racing.Thats for the horsemans protection and the betting public.

If we have to put people in jail then this game is really in the ditch. ZERO TOLERANCE also includes lasix.If a horse isn't healthy enough to go one mile without bleeding in his lungs,then this animal obviously isn't healthy enough to race.Maybe we should consider to start having shorter distance races that would suit this type of horse.Just keep it simple guys.ZERO TOLERANCE.With security.We will all benefit with this type of program.Stop all this talk about jail.

Having been at the event I was somewhat disappointed.
Maybe it just did not come across to me but, I was missing the vision in the whole deal.
For starters the design of the new grand stand "To me it just looks all the other ones not a very exciting design" and I did not observe a new ideas to promote the sport here other then finance. May be there was not enough time but, I felt there was a lack of interest to get new people involved in the sport. Several years ago I heard Frank Stronach talk about his tracks as well as politics and I felt that there was passion and vision behind his endeavors. Unfortunately, I did not get this here.
An enjoyable talk but in my opinion, without the Casino I give The Medowlands 2 years unless the government steps in. I love the sport and hope I am wrong.

I sincerely believe that if you want to ensure integrity in our sport than the owners have to be punished as well. It would only take one or two offences with owners of multiple horses having to sit out of racing and change like we have never seen before would take place.

Leave the courts for the owners to deal with the trainers. Trust me, they will.

In reply to by bmw.hancox

punish the owners ?Have you completely lost your mind ?Why would you hold a owner responsible ?You guys are going to scare all decent people away and out of this game.So if I am NEW to this game ,why would I spend a million bucks on horses with a winning trainer ? Only to find out later he uses band substances.Then you get to drag there name through the mud ? All the while he is just a new green owner.And Gural wants to put trainers in jail!!!!!!!!!This is why there are not any new owners getting involved like the early years with the slot money.Remember when there was 10--15 claims in on one horse.Wheres all the owners gone guys ?Somebody should ask the commision on the numbers for new owners in the last 3 years.I think it would shock you on how many NEW people are NOT getting in this game.
I still stick to the only way to solve this is have ZERO TOLERANCE for drugs.You get positive test or caught with needle you get life.Of course we need to supply the proper security,something we don't do now.All horses that race at WEG should be stabled on the grounds 30 days prior to racing there.

In reply to by bmw.hancox

Owners, once they turn a horse over to a trainer does not have much control over what that trainer does for or with a horse, if you do your research and choose a trainer, you can't stand by your horse 24 hours a day and guard him against what your trainer does, firstly you probably wouldn't know what is and isn't legal, all you can do is make clear to that trainer that you don't want your horse to have anything against the rules being it drugs or equipment, and hope you made a good choice of trainer. So according to you and Mr. Gural, you just lock the owner up and solve all the problems. Of course a lot of winning trainers that know horses and how to get the best out of them without using illegal methods we be out of a job, apparently Mr. Gural associates winning with cheating. He seems to win quite a bit himself.

I strongly agree with prosecution, however, as we have seen we can only prosecute when we have sufficient evidence. Our evidence collection and collecting procedures must improve first. Only then will we be able to make the charges stick, for those that are guilty. Those that are not guilty will not and can not be prosecuted only to be found not guilty after the damage is done.

I believe that Mr.Gural is doing a great job and I commend him for it. However I do not agree with his stance on not allowing certain people from his track(Meadowlands)just because they are winning too many races or because he "THINKS" they are cheaters. Put the checks and balances in place and have all trainers & owners agree to unannounced barn and home searches in order to be allowed to race at his track. If they don't want to agree to this stipulation, then they don't race. There has to be a better why other than assuming someone is dopping their horses just because they are winning races in bunches. I realize that Mr.Gural has the right to refuse anyone entry on his property, however I also believe that this is discrimination at it's best. Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty, and I don't mean guilty in the court of public opinion, which is usually judged by jealousy.

I have long believed that Class 1 and Class 2 violations should be perceived as race-fixing making them subject to prosecution. Jeff is on the right track here, deterrence is the name of the game.

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