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Gural Throws Down The Gauntlet

Published: February 4, 2009 4:44 pm ET

Last Comment: February 6, 2009 7:35 pm ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Today at the 2009 Racing Congress at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jeff Gural continued his drive to get our stars back racing as four-year-olds. Although the idea has received much support since it was announced, Trot Insider reports that there is still opposition to the initiative.

Gural, chairman for American Racing and Entertainment which owns and operates Vernon and Tioga Downs, was part of an impromptu panel which included recently-elected OHHA president Bill O'Donnell, Dennis Dowd, senior vice president of racing for Meadowlands Racetrack, and Alan J. Leavitt, president and general manager of Walnut Hall Ltd.

Gural stated that there was a meeting on Tuesday (February 3) dealing with the initiative to have stipulations installed which would see star horses heading to stud at age five, therefore making it advantageous to be racing at age four.

When speaking during the impromptu panel today, Gural refused to pull punches, instead choosing to draw a proverbial line in the desert sand.

"I find it hard to believe that this initiative is a bad thing for harness racing," Gural said. "I've come to these meetings for three years and every year it is the same discussion. Everybody agrees that the industry is dying. I'm not going to be back next year if we don't get this (star horses racing at four) done."

Though many feel Gural's passion for the idea, others do not.

"Unfortunately, this plan goes against the economic model that we have," Leavitt explained. "There are no assurances that three-year-olds will be a draw at four because the minute [the horse] loses two or three races against bigger, older horses the horse is no longer a draw."

"Star power is good for the whole industry," Dowd said.

All panelists did agree that more money needs to be allocated to the aged division.

February 6, 2009 - 7:35 pmI COULDN'T AGREE MORE !

Darlene (not verified) SAID...

I COULDN'T AGREE MORE ! Let's keep our stars racing at four, five, six and many, many more years. Stakes races for those ages could easily be developed. And also, let's forget about the two year-olds, and let them stay outside in the pastures and mature for another year. Racing 2yo's is a big gamble ... and it does absolutely nothing for the health and stability of the horse at that age, and in later years.

February 5, 2009 - 1:47 pmMy favorite horses to watch

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

My favorite horses to watch are old men , As I call them .The ones that are true great horses are the geldings , because they can't retire at three ..are raced at four and onward. Thanks Boulder Ceek you are the real deal !

As far as the economic structure ... what happen to the four yr old stakes. Any vet in the country will tell you must horses are not fully developed at two so why don't we downplay our two yr old yrs and bring back a four yr old program .How many aged horse take new life time marks an a daily basis.I think that would be interesting racing.

February 4, 2009 - 9:24 pmI think the answer lies with

Steve Lancaster (not verified) SAID...

I think the answer lies with having many big stakes races for 4 year olds only so that the new 4 year olds can make a lot of money before facing the older horses. Also continue to have stakes for 5 year olds and up in the early part of the season. In the last few months of the season, combine the two groups and make all the big stakes for 4 years olds and up.

This may go against the economic model of breeding 4 year olds instead of racing them and may be a problem for the breeding industry. However, with more big money to be won at 4, it will give many owners a reason not to breed but race at 4.

February 4, 2009 - 7:19 pmAllen leavitt speaks with

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Allen leavitt speaks with predjidice he is in charge of a major breeding farm who syndicates 3 yo horses to stand at 4 and get 15 years of breeding out of them @ 200 foals a year do the math they want them as young as they can get them (greed)

February 4, 2009 - 6:11 pm"Unfortunately, this plan

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

"Unfortunately, this plan goes against the economic model that we have," Leavitt explained. "There are no assurances that three-year-olds will be a draw at four because the minute [the horse] loses two or three races against bigger, older horses the horse is no longer a draw."

Mr. Leavitt - Do you suppose Mr. Big and Artistic Fella battling it out was bad for harness racing and had no followers? Likewise, wouldn't watching Somebeachsomewhere vs. Shadow Play, Art Official etc. be good in the coming year? I doubt that SBSW losing would be bad for that rivalry - in fact, his losing to Art Official was arguably his best race and did wonders for the three year old class this past year.

Way to go Mr. Gural, thank you for speaking your mind - stick to your guns! You aren't the only one who has noticed that racing game lamenting it's own decline with no apparent desire to take the necessary steps to try and reverse this trend.

February 4, 2009 - 5:24 pmI would sooner have a foal

Blaine Gregan (not verified) SAID...

I would sooner have a foal from a 12 year old sire that a 4 year old one

Blaine Gregan,
Moncton, NB

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