“We (SBOANJ) had spoken with Jeff Gural and he was pretty adamant about banning Brian Sears,” said Tom Luchento, president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ). “He has his reasons. Whether they were valid reasons or not, I can’t say because he did not share all the reason with us.”
Last week management at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, NJ contacted Brian Sears and informed him he could not drive in any harness racing at the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. All tracks that are owned by businessman/horseman Jeff Gural.
“We are not happy with it,” Luchento said pertaining to the SBOANJ. “This is something that is Jeff’s call. We talked that unless he came up with something substantial that this was not an easy pill to swallow, just telling the guy to take a walk. By the same token I think that Jeff needs to sit down with him (Sears) and that they have to iron this out.”
Sears, 46, is one of the leading drivers in the harness racing industry. According to the United States Trotting Association, Sears has 8,832 career victories and $153,829.234 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.
“I am pretty confident that they will work this out and that is going to happen,” Luchento said. “I am disappointed that something like this has had to happen. Do I think this will get ironed out? Absolutely yes. I think Jeff and Brian will sit down, work their differences out and will come together and end this.
“We are not taking sides with anyone on this issue,” Luchento said. “I am not siding with Jeff Gural and I am not against Brian Sears. It is our job at the SBOANJ to protect our horsemen but if Jeff Gural has something and he brings it up and there is a legitimate beef that they have to work out depending on what that is.
‘At the very end,” Luchento said, “I know they will work it out.”
By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com