Paying it forward

The Gural Settlemoir Yarock Driving Club gets charitable at The Meadowlands.

by Debbie Little

Tonight (March 17) the GSY (Gural Settlemoir Yarock) Driving Club will be making their first of several planned Meadowlands’ winner’s circle charitable donation presentations for 2023.

A check for $5,000 will be given to representatives of the Purple Haze Standardbred Adoption Program, which was chosen as their inaugural recipient this year.

The GSY’s Equine Outreach Fund, over the years, has donated over $350,000 to various causes, but this is the first time they’ll be doing it so visibly.

GSY president Dave Yarock was always reluctant in the past to make such a public showing of their charitable endeavors.

“If we’re giving away money, I don’t have to tell the whole world that we’re giving money away to somebody,” Yarock said. “We do it. I do it.”

After several people suggested to Yarock that they should do a presentation, as other amateur clubs have done previously, this year he finally acquiesced.

Perhaps part of what helped change Yarock’s mind is the fact that many — both inside and outside of the harness world — may not realize how charitable the GSY, and for that matter, all amateur clubs, are.

“We take the yearly membership fees that everybody has to pay to be part of the club plus the 5 per cent drivers’ fees donated every week and they go into the Fund,” Yarock said.

He also pointed out that monies are raised in many ways for the Equine Outreach Fund, which has certainly been bolstered by all the opportunity that the GSY has been given at The Meadowlands.

Although there will always be naysayers questioning why amateur drivers are given the opportunity to compete at the top track in the world in the first place, Yarock knows that their presence helps the sport in multiple ways.

“One is the active involvement of all these people, these amateur drivers, who now go out and buy horses and bring them [to The Meadowlands] and bring their family there for dinner,” Yarock said. “And we support charities, so it’s a win-win situation. We’re loyal to The Meadowlands. We’re here through thick and thin. And they’ve returned the loyalty to us, so it’s been a good partnership.”

Last Friday night (March 10), the two GSY races took in the most action on the card, recording the highest and second-highest single-race totals on the night.

Race one, the first GSY race, saw $339,460 pushed through the windows, while GSY’s second dash (race five) brought in $299,860.

Typically, the races that start The Big M’s two nightly Pick-4 wagers, races six and 10, respectively, record the highest handles of the night. However last Friday, those two races took in $296,827 and $295,876, respectively, slightly less than the lower of the two GSY events, which did not have the benefit of a high-profile, multi-leg wager to bolster its numbers.

“The public knows what they are getting,” Michael Antoniades, The Meadowlands’ post-time coordinator said. “There will be a contentious pace to possibly set up for mid-pack or farther-back closers and you have to consider all the horses. Those are the kind of races that are going to generate the most handle.”

At The Meadowlands, multi-leg wagers such as the daily double, Pick-5 (both start in race one) or Pick-4 definitely have an effect on the monies taken in for a race.

However, it should be noted that, typically, The Big M’s most popular wager throughout the year, is “old reliable,” the exacta and the only time on last Friday’s card when a pool total was higher than the exacta was in the first leg of the two Pick-4s.

At a track that loves to talk about its handle, and rightfully so, the GSY is certainly earning their keep, by providing full, competitive fields that tend to be unpredictable. The GSY’s high handle is likely a result of the low percentage of winning favorites in their races. Favorites win GSY dashes 22 per cent of the time, while non-GSY races are won by the chalk at a 36 per cent rate.

“The GSY has positioned itself and gotten the bettors used to us,” Yarock said. “And they’re used to something a little different. And now that we’ve been sort of a mainstay the last few years, we’re accepted. We’re more enthusiastically bet than other races, so we must be doing something right.”

The accomplishments of the GSY at The Meadowlands in recent years have not gone unnoticed with new clubs springing up at other tracks.

“You’ve got a club in Rosecroft, a club in Ocean Downs,” Yarock said. “You’ve got a club this year opening up in Kentucky at Oak Grove and, hopefully, at the Red Mile as well. This is kind of all an offshoot of the success the GSY club has had at The Meadowlands.”

The success of more clubs translates into more charitable donations.

According to Yarock, charities often reach out to the GSY for a donation and he already has a list for future presentations that includes the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.

Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

For Yarock, the GSY’s partnership with The Meadowlands has given his club a living and therefore it’s on them to make a life and give back.

For years, the Equine Outreach Fund’s main charitable work was done via scholarships, but that changed when the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When COVID hit, I said, ‘Wait a second, there’s so much need out there, so many people suffering, we need to shift our focus a little bit,’” Yarock said. “That’s when I shifted our focus off of scholarships into other types of charitable efforts. If I had more money, I’d give away more money.”