HRU Feedback (2017-06-11)

Howard Taylor pens letter to Gural about Out Of Competition testing

**Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to Jeff Gural by attorney Howard Taylor on June 7 and is published here with the permission of both Taylor and Gural. Taylor wants to emphasize that he is in favor of out of competition testing, but has issues with how Gural conducts his program.

Dear Mr. Gural:

On this date, June 7, 2017, your employee, Bryce Cote came to the farm in Toronto, Canada, where Ron Adams is stabled to take blood from my mare, Lady Shadow. I do understand your out of competition testing program and our obligation to cooperate if we participate at your tracks. However, you must understand that this is not a proper way to conduct out of competition testing.

Mr. Cote came to the farm unannounced. There were no veterinarians at the farm, and Mr. Adams was forced to seek a retired veterinarian who happened to be visiting the farm to take blood on his behalf. The vial was then given to Mr. Cote who then left the farm with the vial. The was no chain of custody nor protection for Mr. Adams against something being added to the sample, either innocently or on purpose.

The purpose of this letter then is to inform you that I have instructed all of my trainers who intend to race at your tracks that they must cooperate with your out of competition testing program. However, they have also been instructed that they will only cooperate by giving samples to a licensed veterinarian who would then be responsible for sealing the sample in front of my trainer and placing same into a tamper proof container which Mr. Cote or your representative must supply. There will be no sample given to Mr. Cote without these protections. If you are unwilling/unable to abide by my requirements, my trainers have been instructed to not allow the sampling. If there is any action towards my horses’ ability to participate under these circumstances, there will be legal ramifications.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, please feel free to call.

Very truly yours,

Howard A. Taylor / Philadelphia, PA

More on disruptor column

(RE: 2017-06-02 column) Dean Towers needs to look up the word “invest”. Any time you spend money with the hope of making money you are investing. A trainer’s investment is not limited to buying a horse. Payroll, payroll taxes, feed, equipment, trucks, trailers etc. etc. are all part of a trainer’s investment. In fact, most of the economic justification for the slot contribution is trainer generated. How long do you think the slot money would last if legislators were given this as an economic indicator? “The number of catch drivers that can now afford a jaguar has increased 1000 per cent since the advent of slot money.” Brett Pelling was right on regarding the percentage split.

— Jerry Riordan / Halmstad, Sweden

Observations from Alan Leavitt

Herewith a few observations from the cheap seats:

1. The racetracks’ practice of dragging (i.e. holding the field until long after the clock showing minutes to post time has hit zero) is a direct assault on the integrity of harness racing. The tracks claim it increases handle, and the more they do it, the more it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. But the American race with by far the biggest handle is the Kentucky Derby and when the clock at Churchill hits zero, they’re loading the horses into the gate. Any hope we have to ever gain new bettors or owners will go down the drain as long as dragging continues.

2. It is shameful that there is not one woman member of the Living Hall of Fame. For me, the most obvious first choice is Bea Farber, the great Queen Bea. Farber proved that a woman could drive a horse just as well as any man, and better than most, and she did it against the most insurmountable obstacles.

During Bea’s heyday, I was a partner on a top 3 year old pacing colt who was trained by Billy Haughton. The colt had a stake at Hazel Park and Billy couldn’t be there. He called to tell me that, and said he’d called the racing secretary to get a driver. He said the racing secretary gave him the name of one of the men there, but he added that the best driver at Hazel, by far, was Bea Farber, but the boys would go crazy if Billy put her down. That was what Bea faced at every turn, yet she still compiled an incredible record of driving accomplishments, including internationally and it’s not that she’s alone. Linda Toscano and Paula Wellwood have both won Hambletonians and Casie Coleman has won more major stakes than anyone could count. Hanover Shoe Farms’ Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky has the hardest job in the business, running the largest operation in the world and doing every side of it with total efficiency and total integrity. All of these women should already be in the Hall, and it’s beyond shameful that none of them are.

3. To date we have no decent sale of two year olds in training, and it is a serious hole in our business model. The thoroughbreds show the world on what seems like a weekly basis how successful such sales can be. They get great prices, often as high as a million dollars, and they produce top stake horses. Right now anyone who wants to get into harness racing will inevitably claim a horse, and why not? He’s getting a known quantity, and he can start getting a return both financially and emotionally the week after he makes the claim. But, if we had a good sale of two year olds qualified and ready to race, a newbie could have all the benefits the claimers offer, but he’d be getting a horse with much higher possibilities.

When I say a good sale, I mean a sale of well-bred, well-trained stakes prospects who have shown their ability on the racetrack before they go in the ring. And they must be fully staked.

It’s something we sadly lack at the moment, but I have a very smart friend named Frank, and he and I might very soon be filling that void.

— Alan J. Leavitt / Lexington, KY

Eye-opener at the Meadowlands

As a regular at the Meadowlands, I go there because I look at the trainer colony (with a few exceptions) and know that most of the ones that I would be concerned about betting against are not allowed at the track. Also, betting on half or five-eights mile racing is a joke. Bad racing and no pool size. Now getting to the point. Everybody is talking about that 1:46:4 mile up at Mohawk. But knowing the stable I would not be concerned. What I am concerned about is the second race at the Meadowlands on June 3. The mile put up by Always At My Place was an eye-opener. Horse out for three weeks with latest form so-so and was swallowed up at PHIL after leading his last start. Now leaves in 26+ tucks makes another quarter move in 26+, gets passed at the half then pops at the 3/4 (third move) to open up and win by five in 1:48:2. The horse was driven by Joe Bongiorno (not Gingras) and trained by Ron Burke. Burke has a 16 per cent win percentage at the Meadowlands and about 24 per cent overall. That means he has to get a win pct (ex Meadowlands) in high 20’s or low 30’s. Usually when in the past trainers have put up these stats something is amiss.

What my real opinion is HRU would probably not print. I would hope Jeff Gural will send specimens to the Hong Kong lab (hopefully they had the sense to take a sample after the race).

In conclusion, if this horse tripped out it would not be concerning, but being used this hard and having so much in the tank is troubling. This is one of the many reasons this game is on the decline.

— John Christiansen / Flanders, NJ

RE: Bill Mulligan story

Very nice story on a very nice person (full story here)… I got to meet (Bill Mulligan) and race against him in the Billings, as I joined the club about the same time.

The “young kid” holding the horse in the group photo is a very young Jim Marohn Jr., who as you know, is driving very well at the Meadowlands, PCD and other PA and NY tracks.

He too, is very well mannered. Working for and being around good people, develops good character.

— Dave Cochrane / Brockville, ON