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Sears' Statement On Restrictions

Published: June 19, 2014 3:38 pm ET

Last Comment: June 24, 2014 9:17 pm ET | 18 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Trot Insider has learned that driver Brian Sears will no longer be able to drive in qualifiers or overnight events at Meadowlands Racetrack, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

Both Sears and Jeff Gural confirmed the news on Thursday afternoon. Gural would not comment on the decision, saying "I assure the industry that I have a reason."

At the conclusion of 2012, Sears moved his driving base from The Meadowlands to Yonkers Raceway. He won the 2013 driving title at Yonkers, driving 471 winners from 2,034 starts at the New York half-miler. These wins helped bolster his seasonal totals to near-career levels with 507 wins (second best total in his driving career) and $13.75 million in purse earnings (third best career total).

Last weekend, Sears drove JK Endofanera to victory in the 2014 North America Cup and was behind Designed To Be for her world record effort at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Wednesday night. Sears currently sits third in North America in seasonal driver earnings with more than $3.86 million banked and eighth in wins with 232.

Late Thursday, Sears made the following statement on the decision.

I am deeply disappointed in Jeff Gural’s recent decision to exclude me from the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon. I am a licensed driver in good standing with the New Jersey Racing Commission, the New York Gaming Commission and all other governing bodies throughout North America. I have done nothing wrong and have broken no rules. The only thing I did was say no to Jeff when he asked me to leave Yonkers and return to the Meadowlands earlier this year.

Owners in this game pay a lot of money to buy good horses and pay a lot of money to stake those good horses everywhere including the Meadowlands. Some of those owners want me to drive their horses in baby races, qualifiers, overnights and stakes. I’ve spent my whole career working hard to get to a point where owners want to have me drive their top horses. It’s disheartening that this is an issue.

June 24, 2014 - 9:17 pmI am glad to see that Mr.

John Celii SAID...

I am glad to see that Mr. Gural made the right decision!

June 24, 2014 - 6:04 pmFor Mr. Gural and Brian to

For Mr. Gural and Brian to come to an amicable agreement bodes well for the for the character of both men. That said, it was to some degree, that both parties had credible reasoning for their respective decisions. This is a situation that could easily arise in other jurisdictions, lets allow this to be the precedence for such an event should it.

June 23, 2014 - 5:48 pmBrian Sears is a business

carlo renon SAID...

Brian Sears is a business just as Mr. Gural is.

June 23, 2014 - 12:01 pmRaise the purse money at the

robert erie SAID...

Raise the purse money at the big M and youll see how fast Brian returns. Would you rake a cut in pay if another employer was offering you a better salary? I think not. Mr. Gurals actions are completely within his power "BUT"... Mr. Gural needs to realize that there any many racetracks in N.A and his purse structure has a lot left to be desired.

June 23, 2014 - 10:12 amWOW!! This is

john smith SAID...

WOW!! This is unbelievable.What difference does it make where
you base your stable. It appears that Mr.Gural didn´t like the way
Brian chose to operate his business.
I wonder if Mr.Gural would do the same thing if for example John
Campbell decided to do something similar....hmmmm.

June 21, 2014 - 6:48 pmFrom across the pond... Mr

From across the pond...
Mr Gural's personal feelings should be personal only, and not reflected in his attempts to control the sport. On a world wide basis everyone knows of the merits and skillful capabilities of Brian Sears as a chosen standardbred driver in all classifications of races. Is this the way for the sport to gain the support of Joe Public at the Meadowlands in these rather difficult times? I think not.

June 21, 2014 - 12:31 pmIt appears to me that

Ken Morden SAID...

It appears to me that everyone is missing the point about Mr. Gural’s request to Brian Sears to drive at the Meadowlands. Mr. Gural has invested millions into this facility and prides himself on presenting a quality product. Let’s face it, many people bet because of a specific driver and whether the better known drivers like it or not, their show or no show affects the quality of the product. Meadowlands lost 2 well known drivers and all Mr. Gural was asking – can you please help me continue to present quality product.
This industry is sometimes so inwardly focussed that we ignore the people who matter most – the bettors and fans. Brian Sears could easily have shown up and in fact took it upon himself to tell the trainers that he was available. Sure, he would not have made as much money as being at Yonkers but the Meadowlands and the fans and bettors (where he made much of his money in the past) deserve better..
Makes one realize that our industry has yet to make the connection between fans, bettors and the product on the track!

June 21, 2014 - 5:10 amDear Mr. Thomas, I

John Celii SAID...

Dear Mr. Thomas,
I respectfully disagree with your analyses. When you pay "big" bucks for a yearling, spend tens of thousands training as a two year old, shell out tens of thousand to stake to the grand circuit, you should have the right to select a top driver for your horse. Many US based two year olds qualify, baby race and at least race their 1st over night race at the BigM. I for one want the same driver(if possible) to drive my baby, thereby; generating knowledge and consistency between the horse and driver. Further, many great drivers(and Brian Sears is one of them) will return from an early race and provide the trainer and owner valuable tips regarding improving the baby's performance. Mr. Gural is denying owners and trainers who prefer Brian Sears, that privilege at his tracks! Mr. Gural has gone too far, he needs a time out, rescind this decision and hope that the other drivers do not boycott his tracks!

June 20, 2014 - 11:56 pmGural is pissed at Sears.

Greg Judson SAID...

Gural is pissed at Sears. It's not right for sure/ Thats what power can do. Money is what makes the world go around. He saved The Meadowlands I guess, so let him do what he wants. Lets be honest most of the top drivers are over rated. For the ten or fifteen of them there is 15 behind them looking for a chance. Do what ever you want Gural. They're all over rated. Lets be honest all this top drivers on overnight events are on the best horses.

June 20, 2014 - 6:55 pmI think we all agree that Mr

john thomas SAID...

I think we all agree that Mr Gural has fired a direct shot. Right into his foot.
That being said.
How often do you find Brian Sears driving at any of the 3 tracks when it is not for a Stakes race.
Sears has been banned from qualifiers or overnight events at Meadowlands Racetrack, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

He wasn't going to be there anyway for that.
He is allowed to drive in stake races at Meadowlands Racetrack, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

This move is like The New York Yankees being banned from playing in Iraq.
Much to do about nothing other than a little chest bumping.

June 20, 2014 - 4:51 pmThe Governing body of the New

Brian Boone SAID...

The Governing body of the New Jersey Racing Commission should step in and correct this problem. It is my understanding that the commission takes ownership of all racing facilities 2 hours prior to post time whether it be a qualifying or a pari- mutual meet. So how can an official from Gural's office , show up and ask Sears to leave when he is there to drive in a qualifying meet which is overseen by the State Commission.

June 20, 2014 - 4:29 pmWhile Mr. Gural has done an

John Celii SAID...

While Mr. Gural has done an outstanding job of revitalizing the Meadowlands, this decision is inconsistent with his efforts to improve racing at The BigM!
A driver should have the right to drive where they want, drive for the trainers they want and for the owners that they want. This decision appears to be vindictive in nature versus based upon any sound logic. Another concern, is if this decision is not founded on any industry violations by Mr. Sears, then we may have a restraint of trade suit in the making. I will tell you this, If I had a favorite in the upcoming Meadowlands Pace or Hambletonian and Brian Sears was my designated driver, I would file a restraint of trade suit against Mr. Gural. This decision is ridiculous. I hope the other drivers at Mr. Gural's tracks ban together and nip this inappropriate decision in the bud!

June 20, 2014 - 11:43 amI personally can't believe

I personally can't believe that (Mr. Gural)would stoop to this position regarding Brain Sears. We talk about democracy and the land of free. Mr.Sears has the right to apply his trade and work anywhere in the US and occasionally Canada. Obviously Mr. Gural thinks Brian Sears does not have this right....because he's not playing by his rules. Shame on you Mr. Gural. In my opinion Brain Sears is one of the best 5 drivers in North America and has proven this over the years. I can't wrap my head around not having him represent his talent at any track, what has he done wrong? In my opinion nothing. Oh, wait a minute maybe he did not agree to the terms and condition that Mr.Gural set out for him.
This absolutely ridicules any business logic. If you want a guy that bad to represent your company then pay him. Mr.Gural should know that great people come at a price. Drive on Brian!

June 20, 2014 - 7:38 amWithout taking sides in Mr.

Without taking sides in Mr. Gural's action against Mr. Sears I would like to point out that Mr. Gural has made a huge financial commitment in building the New Meadowlands.
The Meadowlands over the years has had a very important positive impact on the careers of most of the leading drivers in the sport to-day. Including Mr Sears.

Because it does not have slot machines(as Yonkers)it cannot offer the highest purses available and drivers such as Mr. Sears have chosen to chase immediate financial gain.

The sport of Standardbred Racing in North America is on the bubble,it is in the hands of state and provincial govts and their slot machines.

The failure of the Meadowlands to be the marque destination for the whole industry will have significant negative impact for all participants.

Lou Liebenau

June 19, 2014 - 10:31 pmI can't believe that there

I can't believe that there isn't an amazing uproar after this unbelievable injustice. Come on guys (and girls), This is a real travesty......

June 19, 2014 - 8:50 pmIt is a sad day when a man

It is a sad day when a man like Brian Sears who has worked all his life to get where he is today, then to have Jeff Gural ask a man of this much class to leave his property just because he can under the private property act. He may legally be able to do this but it is not right for this man to have so much power. When it comes to this all brian is trying to do is his job, to satisfy onwers, trainers and the betting public. I watched Mr. Gural bar Mr. Pena a man that has over 900 and some wins that one year with no positive tests or violations except the fact of winning to many races from what I could see. As far as the private property act that gives one man too much power over another man, trust me I know I was asked to leave another track under the private property act and you have no idea what that does to a man's self-esteem. The betting public deserves a fair shake and some of these rules and regulations need to be changed around to protect everybody including good drivers from fast decisions that ruin careers and are completly wrong. I think Mr. Gural should thank his lucky stars that Mr. Sears even drives there!

Alfie Blanchard

June 19, 2014 - 6:07 pmI've known Brain and His

Dave Myrick SAID...

I've known Brain and His father for over 35 years. I remember Brian when he was a little guy running around the barn area at Pompano. He has been raised by one of the most respected families in the business and as he said he has worked long and hard to reach the top of his trade. Brain is as clean as they get in our sport and is in good standing with all the racing commissions in North America. This is a black eye for our sport when a track owner can ban a person just because he wont let the owner dictate where he has to work to earn a living. Mr. Gural you have done some good things in this sport but his is your biggest blunder by far.

June 19, 2014 - 5:24 pmThis is probably one of the

This is probably one of the most idiotic articles I’ve ever read concerning the industry. For a person of this stature ( Mr Gural) in a position of this power deems fit do take such an action it defies all reasoning.
If in fact if Mr Sears’ statement is correct, and he is in good standing under USTA/CTA rules then let this be a wake up call, for any and all drivers, this could easily be in their respective future. My suggestion would be for all the top guys to stand in unity to nip this in the bud quick. My understanding is that a driver is an independent self entity trying to achieve the best results for her/himself and for those they agree to drive for. There has to be more to this story, and if not I refer back to my first sentence.

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