HRU Feedback (2017-02-05)

Gural responds to Dante

While I agree with most of Vic Dante’s comments, I did not want to give your readers the impression that the Meadowlands was empty last Saturday night. We had 177 guests in our trackside dining room Pink, we had a party of 35 and a party of 40 in our skyboxes and 45 guests in Trotters, our private club for horsemen. In addition, we had several hundred people in the food court area for our second annual homestyle chili & salsa cookoff and we handled over $1,300,000 in the building on our live races and other imported signals. Obviously, I wish we had more, but the place is far from empty and the temperature was in the 30’s

— Jeff Gural / Chairman Meadowlands Racetrack

Howard Taylor v. Jeff Gural

There are times when Jeff Gural suffers from bouts of foot-in-mouth disease. His tactics have rubbed people the wrong way. However, he continues to grind out day by day at the Meadowlands for the benefit of the sport and the hopes for alternative gaming. Although everyone knows the real money is in a Meadowlands casino, Gural still keeps the plant open with no guarantee that inept government officials and deep pocketed casino opposition in NJ will ever allow a casino to happen outside Atlantic City.

Now comes Howard Taylor (Feb 3rd HRU – pgs 10-11).

How it’s possible to sue a track to force the running of a race is absurd. Anyone who has seen the demise of the NJ breeding program knows that the NJ Classic and Miss NJ have been utterly worthless for years. As has been pointed out, the race can barely fill and it makes absolutely no business sense to run the race. It’s not as if the race was worth a half a million dollars like it was in the hay day either. The Meadowlands wisely scrapped the winter series of the past when it became evident they couldn’t fill properly and were bad for business. The same goes for the Classic and the Miss NJ. It’s absolutely the right thing to do. Also, why isn’t Mr. Taylor suing the group in PA that controls the Colonial, Battle of Brandywine, and Valley Forge? Those races went for far more money. Their departure is a real loss for the industry. Not a meaningless non-bettor and a race that draws five or six.

The fact is that Mr. Taylor is an attorney. There is little cost in it for him to sue. His suit has nothing to do with fairness or even his business partners. As it has been mentioned, he’s made significant money in the game. It seems to me the suit is just a way to make Gural spend money defending in court. The track is already losing money and Taylor knows that. It’s just a petty move. Mr. Taylor should be noted also as the go to attorney for almost every juice trainer. He’s also a frequent user of some those trainers, as well. Tom Milici and Tracy Brainard were some of his recent trainers. He also defended the immortal Lou Peña. It’s a shame that he’s one of the sport’s biggest owners.
This was one issue in which Mr. Gural was totally correct. However, he did make a poor mistake in threatening to cancel the two mare races that would obviously hurt Mr. Taylor. As I mentioned, Gural has a case of foot-in-mouth disease and it clearly looked petty and personal. It might have been wiser to suggest a different race(s) — even a prestigious one. In my opinion, that may have rallied more industry support to get Mr. Taylor to pipe down. I believe peer pressure was the best way to go as opposed to a clear retaliation. As it stands now, this fight looks more like a pissing contest between two wealthy men because of the retaliation threat. Definitely a mistake by Gural.

— Christopher Fenty / Mount Kisco, NY

Editor’s Note: HRU asked Jeff Gural for his thoughts on Howard Taylor’s lawsuit and Gural provided the following quotes:

“It’s really, really, really upsetting to me that the whole industry has rallied around us to try to keep us afloat and keep the stakes races and along comes Howard Taylor, who, by the way, horses he owned all or a piece of last year made $900,000 in our stakes program… He comes along and make a big issue out of something. His four partners on this horse, I think the purse for the colts would be $110,000, maybe $115,000. They would net out $50,000 divided by four people… so for $12,000, you would think that these people that love the game and would benefit from having all of these stakes and having the Meadowlands open would not have sued, not only me but the Standardbred Owners of New Jersey, The Sires Stakes…. The Sires Stakes, what are they supposed to do, put on a three-horse race so he can win $50,000? It’s ridiculous.

“He loses either way because the two races I may be canceling (Golden Girls and Lady Liberty) are the two where his horse would be the favorite and those races go for $250,000 each. I would think that if Howard wins this case he’s going to have some very unhappy partners on that horse… They were the last two races that we added when we saw we had enough sponsorships. You could easily have a six or seven-horse races for those, so they have very little impact even though I’d like to see those races. I think there were some good three-year-olds so I think they’d be good races, but the fact is that… the Golden Girls was the last race we added and I added it myself saying, ‘Let’s take a chance that we can muddle through.’ I didn’t do that knowing that Howard and his partners were the main beneficiaries.”

RE: Betting Line voted Canada’s Horse of the Year

Perhaps his first lucrative endorsement will be yogurt.

— Jeffrey Biever / Somers, NY

More on Canada’s HOY

Complete joke. (Marion Marauder) wins triple crown and loses HOY?

— @teamsracing to HRU via Twitter

RE: Towers suggesting eliminating inquiries

As a fan (and bettor) of the sport, I totally disagree with Dean’s take on the elimination of inquiries after a race (full story here). Dean may have better insights on inquires however I appreciate the current system and its rules prior to a race becoming official EVEN if it costs me my wager. Why? Because it lends something to the sport the same way it always has, and is the reason other sports have adapted the video review. Inquiries lend integrity to the sport.

Time after time, through the years, I have seen the inquiry sign posted after a race and although I don’t have the facts to back it up, it seems that when the inquiry is posted, when there is possible violation of the rules during the race, more often than not (I’d guess 80-85 per cent of the time), there is a change to the final running order and the offender is penalized. The reason I support inquires is that, as a bettor, I feel protected to a degree, that someone is looking out for myself, as well as other bettors’ financial interests. I don’t mind if it adds several minutes to the evening’s card for the decision to be made.

What bettors want is a fair and correct posted result of a race and for someone to take a look and determine that it was, in fact, run according to the rules of the sport. Years ago in the NFL, viewers griped about calls that were incorrect. Today, they complain about the length of time it adds to a game, but you’ll be hard pressed to find them complain that the use of instant replay is without merit.

Now I will agree with Dean about judges. Sometimes it makes you wonder what they are looking at. What is acceptable at one track, may not be at another. What is a violation to one judge, may not be to another. However, at least it has been reviewed. Without this system in place, this short court of inquiry before a race is made official, will tell me that no one in the sport cares about the interest of the bettor, the person that helps keep this machine going in a financial sense.

So far as results being overturned a month after a post race test comes up positive, well sadly, that is one of the aspects of the sport everyone has to abide by. As a bettor, I can’t expect to be compensated for something that has already been paid out on weeks ago. This is why suspension for offenders that knowingly violate certain should always be strictly enforced. It seems to work although I am certain many horsemen out there can cite valid instances where penalties haven’t been fairly applied. To that end, I admire someone like Jeff Gural banning repeat violators from his tracks when the evidence is solid. It helps maintain the integrity of the sport where, for generations, integrity of horse racing has been questioned and as a result, has cost the sport countless legions of fans here in North America.

Are things always right? Are things always fair? No, they are not. However, there has to be some type of guidelines, some type of rules established that as in the case of an inquiry, provide quick remedy to a suspected race violation.

Finally, something newer to the sport I would like to see revisited and standardized within the industry is breakers on starts. That is something that needs to be more standardized across the industry. Too often, I have noticed horses on a break and lagging way too far behind and the horse is left in the betting pool at one track and not at another. I won’t profess to knowing the answer to this question today and I’m not saying bring back the recall rules as they used to exist, but as a bettor, it kills me to see a horse an 1/16th of a mile back, an 1/8 of a mile before the gate swings open. Of course, that is another discussion.

— Bill Noesges via HRU Facebook page

RE: Merv Oswalt’s introductory column

If Merv was from NJ he probably went to Weekaque Park in Newark in the 1950s and took the bus to Yonkers before the Big M was built in 1976. He should write a column about Carmine Abbatiello’s kid, Eric. Kid? He’s probably in his 50s by now. Good luck on the column.

— Allan Gatto via HRU Facebook page

Can HRU readers help?

I read your article regarding Robert Farrington and Dusty H. Forbes (full article here). I took care of, groomed and hot walked Dusty H. Forbes prior to his sale to Bob Farrington. I was about 15, I worked for Robert Searle in Plymouth, Wisconsin. A gentleman by the name of Less Zahn of Cedarburg, Wisconsin bought him as an unbroken two-year-old from Pete Pauley of Slinger, Wisconsin. Searle had to lasso him just to catch him. He wasn’t halter broke, basically semi-wild.

He had to be registered non-standard as Mr. Pauley could not prove which of his mares foaled him. In effect, he was a “said to be.” Because he was foaled in Wisconsin and had his first few starts here before we shipped to Michigan, I truly believe I have a case for his eligibility to be nominated for our Wisconsin Harness Horse Hall of Fame.

I am looking for anything I can get my hands on to put together a strong argument for his eligibility. I know Bob Farrington has passed away, I am sure he could have provided me with some of his success with Dusty H. Forbes.

If someone at Harness Racing Update can assist me in my quest I would be very grateful.

— George Woodbridge / Oregon, WI