Howard Taylor: Hambletonian Society and John Campbell rolled over

I feel obligated to respond to Mr. Campbell’s commentsin HRU [last] Sunday. He is focusing on one misquote in the HarnessLink article.

I do not believe that the Hambletonian Society is barring me from racing. Rather, that is at the sole discretion of [The Meadowlands’ owner] Jeff Gural, however misguided. The HarnessLink article stated that in error.

The problem that I have with the Hambletonian Society is that they rolled over and bowed to Gural’s wishes and allowed him to exclude me and others. They allowed a clause in their agreement that they defer to the rules of the USTA, state racing agency and the host track. They gain nothing from acquiescing to the host track.

The Hambletonian Society does have the power to convince Gural to back down. There is no obligation to race their races at The Meadowlands. They can take their races to any track. I’m sure that if they threatened to remove the Hambletonian, Gural would back down rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing their signature race. I’m equally confident that several tracks would welcome the most important race in our sport. Instead, the society, led by Mr. Campbell rolled over and deferred to Gural’s wishes, without a fight.

There was no provision or notice when I purchased yearlings, or when I staked them to the Hambletonian Society sponsored races that my horses may be excluded at the whim of a track owner. I certainly would not have bought as many.

So that the record is straight, my beef with Mr. Campbell and the Hambletonian Society is that they did not have the backbone to do the right thing and stand up to Gural and protect their best customers.

— Howard Taylor / Philadelphia, PA

In defense of Howard Taylor and harness racing owners

When will harness/horse racing learn? Apparently never, because now we’re trying to get rid of owners. Unless you have proof that [Howard] Taylor bought and used the medicines, getting an owner out of racing is stupid. We’re going to shrink our base of yearling owners? Brilliant way to grow the business. Maybe Jeff [Gural] and John Campbell should go talk to the breeders and ask them if they want to eliminate a major owner? Just saying that harness racing is going for 1/10th of the prizes thoroughbreds have and our solution is to get rid of owners? Dumb business model.

I have loved harness racing for a long time, but when you have Ron Burke and Howard Taylor saying they might quit the sport, that is really bad. Demand for yearlings and race horses will crater.

— Shari Hazlett / Ellicott City, MD

Harness racing needs more competitive races more than open data

While I agree with [Dean Towers’] theory that access to more past performance data would possibly benefit harness racing and possibly help drive betting handle, my experience as a long-time harness and thoroughbred bettor would say what harness racing really needs is more competitive races.

I almost always bet less on harness racing due to too many races where there is an outstanding favorite in a race at really low odds that will usually win against other less qualified horses. I usually do not bet anything on those races or a few exacta or trifecta tickets with the favorite as my key horse on top. In thoroughbred races that situation happens less often. So I say challenge the racing office to try and get more competitive races if you really want to increase betting handle. 

John Chambers / Lansdowne, PA