It was confirmed this afternoon that harness racing driver Brian Sears has been banned from competing at three racetracks, the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, which are all owned by Jeff Gural.
“Basically he is not allowed to drive at the Meadowlands period.” Jeff Gural said. “I have not decided about the stakes horses yet, other than that he is not allowed to drive. I guess that includes Tioga and Vernon Downs too. I was wasn’t really thinking about those tracks, only the Meadowlands at first.”
Sears, 46, is one of the leading drivers in the harness racing industry. According to the United States Trotting Association, Sears has 8,829 career victories and $153,761.224 in purse earnings by the horses he had driven. He hails from a family deep in harness racing tradition. His late grandfather, Gene, is a member of the Hall of Fame and his father, Jay, is a prominent owner, breeder, trainer and driver.
In a telephone conversation earlier in the day, Sears confirmed that he has been banned from the three tracks but refused to comment about it at that time.
“I have understood that he is getting a lawyer,” Gural said, “and because of that I cannot comment at this time on the reasons why he is being banned. It may have to wait to come out in court. I have very good reasons and let’s just leave it at that.”
Gural did say he was exploring if he would be able to bar Sears from competing in stakes races too. In many jurisdictions when people make nomination payments years in advance, tracks have had to allow banned trainers and drivers to compete in those specific races only. Gural said if he can ban Sears from driving in stakes races too he would do it.
“I never said anything to him about getting a lawyer,” Brian Sears said. “I just have to do what I have to do. He really feels hurt because I was not willing to race there (Meadowlands) on a regular basis. It’s a shame. It’s really disappointing. I can see his point to a degree but they are racing just two days a week. I don’t want to drive at three tracks every week, that’s not for me. People want my services to drive in stakes races and I enjoy racing in them. It worked out well for me last year and I don’t see why it should not work out well for me this year.
“It’s just a shame that it has come to this.” Sears said.
Apparently both Sears and Gural have had conversations prior to the banning and that Sears was denied being able to drive certain horses at the Meadowlands in advance of the recent findings.
Sears had been a regular fixture at the Meadowlands for many years. While he does most of his driving at Yonkers Raceway, he had been competing at the other tracks on a regular basis for most of their stakes events.
It was just last season that Sears won both the $1.2 million Hambletonian Final with Royality For Life and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks with Bee A Magician, on the same day at the Meadowlands.
By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com