Howard Taylor is wrong on two counts and his ire is misdirected

Hambletonian Society CEO John Campbell said the owner’s battle is with The Meadowlands, not the Society.

by Dave Briggs

Hambletonian Society CEO John Campbell wants to set the record straight.

Owner Howard Taylor was recently quoted in HarnessLink as saying the Hambletonian Society had excluded Taylor from its events at The Meadowlands and that Campbell had “threatened to take the Hambletonian away from me.”

Campbell said neither are true.

“It is incorrect that [the Hambletonian Society] has banned Howard Taylor or anybody else from any of our events,” Campbell said. “And, if you check the list of eligibles on our website and our stakes, all horses that Howard has paid in either solely or in partnership are listed as eligible.”

The issue involves Taylor being on The Meadowlands’ list of people banned from participating at the track. Taylor is one of 32 people currently banned at The Meadowlands. Jeff Gural, the owner of The Meadowlands, has said the people are banned because they appear on the list of individuals named for purchasing specific performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) from former veterinary medication saleswoman Lisa Gianelli.

Taylor denies he purchased PEDs.

The point is that since Taylor is currently banned by The Meadowlands, it means the track is saying he cannot participate in any events. Currently that includes all Hambletonian Society events except the Hambletonian, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian Maturity. Taylor’s prime concern is the Hambletonian Society’s Breeders Crown event, which will be held at The Meadowlands in October. But he did mention the Hambletonian, as well.

“I never threatened to take the Hambletonian races away from Howard or anybody else,” Campbell said. “I simply stated that The Meadowlands made overtures [to the Hambletonian Society] about possibly including the Hambletonian in their banned protocol.”

All this is Campbell’s way of saying Taylor’s ire is misdirected. The Hambletonian Society isn’t banning Taylor, the ban is coming from The Meadowlands, which has the legal right under private property laws to exclude people it deems undesirable.

“The track rules’ clause that’s in the Breeders Crown conditions, and many of our stakes, has been in for a number of years,” Campbell said. “And the track rules have also come up in a similar situation at a different host track in the past.”

In the end, Campbell said he just wants Taylor to get his facts straight.

“Our position is that we have not banned anybody,” Campbell said of the Hambletonian Society. “It’s a Meadowlands decision. We’re going to gather information and monitor it and see if anything changes between now and entry time.

“I get [Taylor’s] frustration, but direct it at the right place. The other thing is we’re getting dumped on here and we never even made a decision.”

For the record, Campbell said the Hambletonian Society is still working on the issue.

“We have had talks and discussions about this matter on numerous occasions with Jeff Gural,” Campbell said.


Though the Hambletonian Society has no direct connection to the Mohawk Million to be held on Sept. 21 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Campbell said he’s “tickled” the slots for the race were oversold and the race will continue. The price of the slots dropped from $100,000 (Cdn) apiece in 2023 to $50,000 (Cdn) each for 2024.

“I know they struggled to sell that race out the last couple of years at $100,000, but they still managed to,” Campbell said.

“You have to commend Woodbine for making the commitment to keeping it at a million and lowering the buy-in. Obviously, that’s been reflected in the number of entries and the people that recognized the value in that. I think you’re going to see a lot of haggling prior to entry time. With $50,000 in there, it gives owners a lot more wiggle room to make deals with potential starters in the race, so I think it’s going to be more interesting leading up to draw time than it has been in the past as well.”

Campbell gave further kudos to Woodbine for supporting the race with $500,000 of the $1 million purse.

“[Woodbine’s] commitment to standardbred racing as a whole, but certainly the high-end stakes, is to be commended,” Campbell said. “They are certainly proponents of our industry at all ends of it.”