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Ron Gurfein Passes

Published: May 5, 2021 5:29 pm ET

Last Comment: May 6, 2021 9:52 am ET | 4 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Trot Insider has learned that Hall of Fame trainer Ron Gurfein of Delray Beach, Fla. has passed away at the age of 80.

Ron Gurfein was born in New York City in 1940. Training Standardbreds is Ron's second successful career. His first was owner of a women's clothing company; however, in 1965, he sold the business. An owner of several racehorses, Gurfein at that time decided to try his hand at training them. His efforts began at Monticello Raceway. He remained there with moderate success until he transferred his racing stable to The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where his six-year-old trotter Franconia, whom he owned and trained, set a world record of 1:55 for mares five years of age and older in July of 1987.

Gurfein's stock rose through the 1990s, specializing in trotters and conditioning the likes of Kerrys Crown, MB Felty, Imperfection, Baltic Striker and Lady Starlet.

Gurfein made headlines in 1994 with two of harness racing's best from that season: Victory Dream and Beat The Wheel. The three-year-old trotting colt Victory Dream had nine wins in 17 outings that year with earnings of $992,662. His best moment was in the $1.2 million Hambletonian, winning his elimination in 1:53.4 before returning to capture the $1 million final in 1:54.1. At season's end Victory Dream was named Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year.

The four-year-old trotting mare Beat The Wheel had six wins in 16 starts in 1994, earning just $84,535, but she made harness racing history when she trotted a 1:51.4 mile at The Meadowlands -- at the time the fastest trotting mile ever.

The 1995 and 1996 seasons saw Gurfein train the best horse of his career in the outstanding trotting filly Continentalvictory. As a freshman in 1995, the Valley Victory filly had 10 wins in 17 starts -- with a nine-race winning streak from mid-August to mid-November -- and in the process took $432,810 to the bank and divisional honours at years end. The following year, Continentalvictory captured two-thirds of the Trotting Triple Crown, winning the $334,700 Yonkers Trot in 1:56.2h, and the $1.2 million Cadillac Hambletonian, taking her $100,000 elimination in a stakes and world record time of 1:52.1 and the $1 million final in 1:52.4. Her bid for the Triple Crown ended when she was scratched from the Kentucky Futurity with a sore ankle. Her 1996 effort earned her U.S. Horse of the Year honours as well as Trotter of the Year and Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter of the Year.

Gurfein collected his third Hambletonian of the 1990s courtesy Self Possessed. The Victory Dream colt had four wins in ten starts as a freshman in 1998, ringing up earnings of $281,170, but reached superstar status as a sophomore. He recorded nine wins in 14 starts and bankrolled $1,065,220. He dominated his foes for most of the season and was at the top of his game in the $1 million Hambletonian final when he crushed Angus Hall by five-and-a-half lengths in a time of 1:51.3. This was the fastest race mile ever by a trotter. Other major wins for Self Possessed were the Kentucky Futurity, American-National and Bluegrass. This outstanding campaign earned Self Possessed a 1999 Dan Patch Award as the top three-year-old trotting colt in the sport and propelled Gurfein to the Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year Award.

In 2003, Cantab Hall was guided by Gurfein to an undefeated season as a two-year-old trotter, winning each of his 10 starts while ringing up $461,337 in earnings. He became the first two-year-old ever to be named U.S. Trotter of the Year, while also earning a Dan Patch Award as the top two-year-old trotting colt in the sport. During his sophomore campaign in 2004, Cantab Hall hit the board in 11 of his 13 races with earnings of $980,966 and has since gone on to be one of the sport's top trotting stallions.

Other successful racehorses Gurfein conditioned include Miss Wisconsin, Higher Power, Beissinger Hanover, Sky Watch, Mr Vic, Possess The Magic and Vernon Blue Chip. During his noteworthy career Gurfein has trained seven world-record-holding horses (Franconia, Cayster, My Starlet, Imperfection, Beat The Wheel, Continentalvictory, and Self Possessed) and three Hambletonian winners, Victory Dream (1994), Continentalvictory (1996) and Self Possessed (1999). He trained a total of 632 winners over his career, with horses earning $23,880,187

Ron is survived by two children, Lauren and Blake, who posted the following message through their father's Facebook account:

It is with profound sadness that we share that our dad, Ronnie Gurfein (a.k.a. “the Guru”), passed away earlier today. His was a long life filled with many joys, successes, and love. His wit was second to none and he had us laughing till his final moments.

Per his wishes, there will be a small family-only ceremony. We know he will be missed by many, so please stay tuned for information about a future celebration of his life and career.

In lieu of flowers or cards, we would appreciate donations in his name to Caring Across Generations – an organization dedicated to changing the way we care for older adults.

Please share memories and photos of Ronnie in the comments below.
With love and gratitude,
Lauren and Blake

Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the family and friends of Ron Gurfein.

(with files from the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame)

May 6, 2021 - 9:52 amI was saddened to hear of Mr

Norm Brunet SAID...

I was saddened to hear of Mr Gurfein's passing. I will miss reading his columns on HRU and his knowledge and opinions on our sport. He was very intellectual, and lived a very full life. RIP.

May 6, 2021 - 9:02 amRonnie was one of a kind. It

murray brown SAID...

Ronnie was one of a kind. It was an honour to call him my friend. There was never one quite like him. There certainly will never be one. He was the perfect example of a person who had a life well lived.
A brilliant person who enjoyed life both on and off the racetrack. He will be missed.

May 5, 2021 - 7:30 pmMet Ron in the early sixties

Met Ron in the early sixties at the prep shed at the Blooded Horse Sale. He and I were trying to buy Painters Express. He got him and had a great career with him and many others. His success in our game is as good as it gets. Always enjoyed having a visit him at the sales. Rest easy old friend.

Brian Webster

May 5, 2021 - 6:33 pmWOW, what a shock. I enjoyed

John Vance SAID...

WOW, what a shock. I enjoyed following your father's career and reading his Guru column. I know I will miss him and I never met him. His rapier wit and understanding of our sport is legendary, another huge loss for the sport of harness racing. Here is to a life well lived! Please accept my condolences and take care. John Vance


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