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One of the last acts of the New York legislature before its 2016 session ended June 18 was to send a message to one of its neighbors: New York is poised to act if New Jersey moves to build casinos near the New York border. The retaliation, according to a joint resolution adopted by the Senate and Assembly, would likely include stepping up the current timetable envisioned for additional casinos in downstate New York. The resolution didn't state where precisely new casinos might go, but lawmakers have said New York City would be a prime market location to compete with casinos if they are built across the Hudson River in northern New Jersey. At issue is whether voters in New Jersey in a statewide referendum this fall agree to amend their constitution to permit two casinos to be built in the northern part of the state; Meadowlands, owned by Jeff Gural, is one of the sites being considered. Gural also owns Tioga Downs in New York's Southern Tier region and hopes to turn video gaming and harness racing facility into a full-scale, commercial casino. The resolution approved by New York lawmakers notes "the importance of protecting New York State's gaming market," as well as the revenue state government gets from casinos and racetracks, and warned "against dilution resulting from new gaming competition in neighboring states." Lawmakers have said the warning shot has a chief intended target: private financiers considering investments in potential New Jersey casinos. New York officials believe, rightly or wrongly, that investors in New Jersey might be scared off if officials on the east side of the Hudson River were to also permit casinos in such population centers as Manhattan. The theory is that New York residents, or tourists staying in Manhattan, will have no desire to travel to New Jersey if there is a casino in Manhattan or one of the other boroughs. The strategy, though, has some unanswered questions. For starters, New York in seven years can award three additional casino licenses, including in the New York City area. The long time period was built into a 2013 law that created the timetable to give four upstate casinos a chance to get off the ground and be prepared for competition. Three of the upstate casinos are now under construction, and one, near Monticello, could face serious competition if northern New Jersey casinos are open. It could face challenges if casinos were opened in New York City as well. If New York violates the terms of the 2013 law and awards three casinos license prior to the end of the seven-year period, the state would have to pay the upstate casinos $50 million each; one of the four would get slightly less. The newly adopted resolution is aimed at protecting video lottery terminal casinos that are attached to Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County, as well as the under-construction Montreign Resort Casino in Sullivan County in the southern Catskill Mountains. The casino at Aqueduct is run by Genting Group, which also has a major share in the Montreign project.  If New York went ahead with its casino development in New York City, that, too, could have major consequences for Aqueduct and Yonkers, which get tens of millions of dollars each year from VLTs for operating funds and purses for horsemen. That has led to speculation that New York might consider awarding full casino rights to Aqueduct and Yonkers if New Jersey expands casino gambling outside of Atlantic City. How that would work, considering the long and expensive bidding process the upstate casino licensees had to go through, is uncertain. Genting Americas, which runs the Aqueduct racetrack casino, praised New York lawmakers for the resolution aimed at New Jersey. "The Northeast casino market is a highly competitive environment which is already close to saturated,'' the company said in a statement Sunday. "It's not surprising that New York state refuses to sit idly by while New Jersey's casino referendum ... threatens thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for the state's education fund—a majority of which is currently generated by Resorts World in New York City,'' the company added. "We thank lawmakers for sending a clear signal that they will stand with us and protect New York revenues and workers.'' The resolution approved by New York lawmakers notes that the new casinos upstate will generate $430 million in annual economic benefits once they open, which includes $238 million in casino tax payments to the state. "This revenue stream is vitally important to New York state's economic future," the resolution states. The non-binding resolution concludes that if New Jersey voters approve a casino expansion in November, New York lawmakers will ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to direct the New York State Gaming Commission to perform a market study of the potential impact the New Jersey casinos may have on the state and its existing casino licensees. "If such constitutional amendment is adopted, then the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly will assess the aforementioned market study to determine what actions, including the potential for additional casino licenses, might be necessary to protect the significant contribution made by casino operations to New York state's economy," the resolution states. By Tom Precious Reprinted with permission of the Bloodhorse.com site

In a letter to the Hon. John Bonacic, Chairman, NYS Senate Racing & Wagering Committee, the Hon. Gary Pretlow, Chairman, NYS Assembly Racing & Wagering Committee, Robert Williams, Executive Director, New York State Gaming Commission, Members of the NYS Gaming Commission and the Members of the NYS Legislature, Harness racing owner/driver and President of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, Joe Faraldo speaking on behalf of his Association explains that retribution by Jeff Gural against them is now taking place as a direct result of their opposition to a piece of legislation that did not pass this session.  Here is the Letter;  I am writing on behalf of thousands of hard-working harness horsemen across New York State to make you and your colleagues aware of the retribution that is now taking place against them as a direct result of their opposition to a piece of legislation that did not pass this session.  As you know, the SOA of New York, along with the horsemen’s associations at Monticello, Saratoga, Buffalo and Batavia, submitted memos in opposition to S7786 (Bonacic) and A10215 (Pretlow), which would have allowed an individual track owner in New York State to race his own horses at his own tracks – thereby threatening the very integrity of the sport.  As a direct result of these bills not passing, the track owner in question – Jeff Gural, who owns Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs and the Meadowlands – immediately retaliated against me personally by decreeing a lifetime ban against me ever racing any horses I own, in whole or in part, pursuant to valid NYS licenses, at any of these tracks again (and as you will see from the attached article below from the “View from the Grandstand” blog, while Mr. Gural attempted to mask this retribution by citing a technicality with one of my recent entries at the Meadowlands, the unbiased blog author clearly concludes that “this exclusion is retaliatory”). While this retaliation against me was perhaps not unexpected, what was more shocking – and one would think should be of more serious concern to you, your legislative colleagues and New York State’s racing regulators – was that Mr. Gural followed this personal ban with an additional ban against qualifying at his tracks for ALL horsemen stabled at a track where the statutorily recognized horsemen’s association submitted a letter of opposition to his bill.  This is an absolutely unprecedented action – based on nothing more than a track owner’s anger and petulance over not getting his way – and, quite frankly, it reinforces exactly why it was such a prescient decision not to move this legislation in the Assembly or Senate.  The horsemen were extremely concerned about allowing “racing against the boss,” because of the possibility that he could influence the race office and judges and/or retaliate against individual horsemen he would be racing against.  Now, Mr. Gural’s retaliatory actions demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that this fear was definitely justified and so thank you for having the wisdom not to move these bills. We remain committed to continuing to work together to grow our industry with fairness, transparency and integrity, and so once again we simply wanted to make sure you were aware of the types of challenges we unfortunately sometimes face in that effort.  Please don’t hesitate to call me at 718-544-6800 or our lobbyist, Joni Yoswein, at 212-233-5700 should you have any questions and thank you again. Joe Faraldo President, SOA of NY   “View from the Grandstand” Sunday, June 19,2016 LAW AND ORDER As you may have read in today's Harness Racing Update, Joe Faraldo has been handed a lifetime ban from the three Gural tracks for listing himself as trainer on two horses for this Friday's Billings events at the Meadowlands when they are actually trained by a trainer on the exclusion list who is listed as the trainer whenever the horses race in New York. Needless to say Faraldo is claiming foul, that the exclusion is in revenge for his engineering the defeat of a bill in New York State which would have allowed Gural's horses to race at Tioga and Vernon Downs in overnight events where they currently are prohibited from racing.  More about this in a moment. It would very well appear this exclusion is retaliatory as these horses were entered twice at the Meadowlands and allowed to race, without question.  Faraldo's exclusion came after he raced his horses this past Friday night.  The race office should have rejected the entries the first time if Faraldo was violating the rules. Truth is, trainers often change when racing in another state.  I for one know of one trainer who, when sending horses to New York, had the horses race under the owner's name as trainer because of Workers Compensation requirements in the Empire State; the trainer didn't have the required coverage.  Truth is horses often race under different names at different tracks for a myriad of reasons; sometimes innocently, other times to get around rulings (aka, bearding). It certainly would appear the ban comes in retribution for Faraldo leading the effort to keep track owners from racing in overnight events at their own track.  However, Faraldo must have known Gural would be gunning for him; hence unless looking to provoke action, Faraldo should have dotted his 'i's and crossed his 't's and not given Gural a reason to ban him.  Of course, Faraldo is not the only one to suffer for the legislation going down to defeat.  Gural has also decided horses stabled at tracks where horsemen opposed the legislative change would not be allowed to qualify at Gural's tracks; they would still be able to race.  For the horsemen in these association groups, their penalty is more of an inconvenience.  Still, a pretty ballsy action from Gural considering how full the entry box has been at his tracks as these horsemen may decide 'if they can't qualify there, they aren't going to race there'. Quite honestly, as much as it may be an inconvenience it may be to get Gural's horses to race in overnight events, the legislature was right to defeat the legislation which would have allowed him to race his horses locally.  I would never suggest any chicanery on the part of Jeff Gural, but allowing a track operator to race at his own tracks in overnight events would not be a good idea; the perception given when the track operator wins would be he was allowed to win because he owns the track.  Just think what handicappers would be saying the first time a track operator's horse was involved in an inquiry and allowed to stay up.     

From a mile away, Allerage Farm’s magnificent harness racing barn can be seen amid rail fences, rolling pastures and red and white outbuildings on a hill rising some 1,500 feet from the Susquehanna River basin. Drawing near, the Bradford County, Pennsylvania postcard comes to life. Foals gambol near watchful mares. Staff, dressed smartly in black polo shirts, lead their equine charges to assigned stables and pastures. At the very top of the hill sits a gabled manor from which the farm’s owner — real estate and racetrack magnate Jeff Gural — can take it all in. Yet for all its beauty, Gural's horse-breeding farm holds a disturbing mystery health experts and the federal government are working hard to solve. For three years, the mares have been bearing foals with dysphagia — a rare, life-threatening condition preventing them from swallowing properly. Although researchers have yet to pinpoint a cause, a Cornell University veterinary team that saved 17 of Gural's standardbred foals has identified a primary suspect — a gas well drilled directly next to the farm by Chesapeake Appalachia LLC.  An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed the farm’s water was contaminated. However, it concluded Chesapeake operations was not the cause. Big money, land rights and health hazards have been salient story lines in Pennsylvania’s shale gas bonanza. The mystery on Gural’s farm, however, represents a new twist in the power play between landowners, regulators and the gas industry. For years, farmers have been dealing with water contamination and illnesses that common sense tells them is caused by nearby shale gas operations. But they generally face a burden of proof requiring legal and scientific resources beyond their means. Regulators, industry and health officials, meanwhile, often explain problems like polluted water wells as resulting from natural and pre-existing phenomenon. But Allerage is not your average farm, and the foals are not your typical animals. Colts playing at Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   With some horses potentially worth six figures, Gural wants answers. His lawyers have filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board demanding state regulators conduct a more thorough investigation of his farm’s water. “We are protecting our interests,” Gural said. “If you don’t respond now, it’s hard to come back a year later and say there was a problem.” The farm, which opened in Pennsylvania in 2007, is more than an investment for Gural. It’s a passion. The name, Allerage, is a combination of the names of his three children: Aileen, Eric and Roger. Gural’s veterinary team at Cornell has been conducting its own study funded by a $240,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the nation’s medical research agency. This study involves not only water chemistry, but a search for compounds in the soil, air and forage as well as in the blood and tissue of the horses themselves. Gural arguably could be one of the most influential part-time farmers in the Northeast. His breeding operations include more than 100 horses distributed between Sayre and a second farm in Dutchess County, N.Y. Jeff Grual questions why foals on his Bradford County, Pa. standardbred horse breeding farm are being born with a unique malady that requires immediate treatment at Cornell, (Photo: Jeff Platsky/Press & Sun-Bulletin)   Allerage Farm is a quick 6-mile drive south over the state border from his Tioga Downs Casino Racing & Entertainment complex in Nichols, N.Y. — a facility this year due to explode into a full-scale casino with table games. A big part of the current operation is the Tioga harness racetrack. In addition to real estate operations in New York and New Jersey, he also operates Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Vernon Downs in Oneida County. At the heart of the mystery of the foal's illnesses at Allerage is the proximity of gas wells. The foals on the Dutchess County farm, where there is no drilling, all have been healthy. But 17 foals on the farm in Bradford County near the Chesapeake well have been stricken at birth over the past three years. Although all the sick foals have been cured with treatment at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the problem has posed a life-and-death struggle during the first weeks of their lives. The most recent victim was Flash, a bay beauty with an impressive pedigree. His father, Yankee Glide, was a dominant trotting champion winning more than $500,000 in purses in two years of racing. His mother won more than $150,000. Flash seemed perfectly healthy when he dropped into the world in late March. But, within hours, as he stood on his spindly legs and began nursing, his handlers recognized the telltale signs. Milky froth bubbled out his nostrils. Later, a rattling noise developed in his chest. The hungry foal was aspirating his mother’s milk. Without emergency care, he would die of pneumonia. When treatment is required, the foals, accompanied by their anxious mothers' handlers, are guided into a trailer for the 50-mile back-road trip to Cornell. There, clinicians usher the team into a medically-equipped stable, insert a catheter to administer sedatives and antibiotics and a tube down the foal’s trachea for nourishment. Each foal has been cured after treatment, with the regimen lasting from a week to a month and costing between $5,000 and $10,000. “We’re lucky to have the resources,” said Ashleigh Bennett, the farm manager. “If it wasn’t for Jeff, these foals would be euthanized.” Gas drilling supporter Five of 10 foals born on Gural’s Pennsylvania farm were afflicted with dysphagia in 2014 and 10 of 11 in 2015. Although mares are sometimes moved between the New York and Pennsylvania farms, mothers of the sick foals share one obvious connection — they drank water at the Pennsylvania farm during their pregnancy. Some mares have also had problems with their reproductive cycles, a major concern on a breeding farm. With the water a prime suspect, Gural added a $40,000 upgrade to the Pennsylvania farm’s water filtration system in October. Meanwhile, farm staff awaited the birth this spring of three foals whose mothers had been exposed to the water prior to the upgrade. The foals arrived in March. Two of them — Flash and Oscar  — developed the telltale rattle in their chest within a day of their deliveries.   Allerage Farm's water filtration system Tom LaBarbera / Correspondent Video The babies will be given race names when they grow into competitors. Their “barn names” typically reflect the circumstances of their birth. Flash was a quick delivery that came a week early. Oscar was born during the Academy Awards, and Ester, a biblical name, was born over Easter weekend. Like puppies or kittens, foals have distinct personalities and a universal cuteness. When Flash gets riled, he bucks and kicks in jerky sideways movements to show his machismo — a display comical in a foal but intimidating in a colt. It’s a drill the colts on the farm are always practicing against each other while loose in the corrals. Gural and his team are counting on the new water filter to put an end to the problem, but with the equine gestation period lasting 11 to 12 months the results won’t be known until later this year and early next. Though wary, Gural is not rushing to judgment about the nearby gas well. He is on record as a supporter of shale gas development — a position he emphasized in a recent interview at the farm. Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa owned by Jeff Gural, and owner of Tioga Downs has had more than a dozen foals born on the farm have been sick, afflicted with dysphagia, a problem swallowing that prevents them from nursing. Researchers suspect the problem is related to a shale gas well on adjacent property. Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LA BARBERA)   “It created jobs in Pennsylvania, and look what it’s done for the price of gas,” said Gural, noting oil and gas prices have dropped to the lowest levels in recent memory. “It’s been a boom for the economy.” Roughnecks and roustabouts, pioneers in developing northern Pennsylvania gas fields, were frequent and welcome customers at Tioga Downs, less than an hour’s drive for many of them. So were landowners receiving royalty payments who might have spent some of it at Gural's casino complex. Gural said he would entertain the idea of putting a shale gas well on his Tioga Downs property if fracking were approved in New York. But he does not unconditionally hold the industry blameless, making it clear he doesn't approve of some of Chesapeake's business practices. Mostly though, his support for shale gas development is tempered by skepticism about regulation in Pennsylvania and a lack of oversight. “The way they do this in Pennsylvania is loosey-goosey,” he said. “I believe they would do a better job in New York.” Gural, candid and approachable, was dressed in jeans, work shirt and a cap bearing the name of a feed company. With casual exchanges with his barn staff, he conveyed an impression more of a farmer than a real estate/casino tycoon. He walked toward a stall where Flash, recently returned from Cornell, lay resting in the hay near his mother. Gural reported his wife, Paula, feels strongly the dysphagia was unrelated to shale gas development. The conversation turned to a federal exemption — commonly known as the “Haliburton loophole” — allowing the fracking industry to withhold specifics about chemicals injected into the ground to stimulate gas production. Chesapeake's Struble Well sits near the south border of the farm. Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   “That they don’t have to tell you what chemicals they are using is ridiculous,” Gural said. “I haven’t met a politician yet who thinks that’s a good idea. Yet it shows you what kind of lobby they [the gas and oil industry] have.” The complaint over secrecy is at the center of his appeal to the Pennsylvania hearing board reviewing his case against the state environmental agency. Testing has shown Allerage Farm's well water is contaminated with levels of manganese, iron, aluminum and turbidity exceeding state standards. Before installing the new filter system in October, the farm used a sediment filter, which was effective until problems began cropping up with increasing frequency in 2014. The nearby gas well in question, Struble 5H, was drilled in March, 2011 about 300 feet from the farm's southern property line. Production began after it was fracked in 2012. The Pennsylvania DEP, taking into consideration samples prior to drilling, reported water quality on the farm “does not appear to have changed appreciably from before the commencement of oil and gas activities.” Gural’s lawyer, Martin Siegel, says the scope of the tests — covering only two dozen fundamental compounds — was too narrow. According to the appeal, the DEP failed to request or even consider information from Chesapeake regarding hundreds of substances used or possibly spilled at the well pad, let alone test for them. “Substances used by Chesapeake but not sampled for could be … the cause of the health problems suffered by the foals,” states the appeal, filed with the hearing board in February. In other words, the DEP results won't show an offending chemical if it was never part of the test. “You have to know what you are looking for to figure out what’s causing it,” Bennett said. “You have to find the needle in the haystack, if it’s even in the haystack.” Ashleigh Bennett, right, farm manager with the horses, leads Oscar as Amber Pruchnik, left, leads the mom to the stable at Allerage Farm in Sayre, Pa Thomas La Barbera / Correspondent Photo (Photo: THOMAS LABARBERA)   Suspicion about the water represents “the needle in the haystack” for which Gural and his breeders are looking. If the source of the mystery isn't the water, a solution can be far more complicated. “Water, we can fix,” Bennett said. “If it’s in the ground or in the air, that’s a different problem.” On the farm Drilling has been known to compound existing water problems. Gas wells also produce air emissions from methane and other constituents rising from a mile below the ground. These impurities are bled off at wellheads and compressor stations or escape through leaks in the system. In addition to the gas well adjacent to Gural’s farm property, 10 other sites operate within 5 miles of the farm. Their emissions are invisible but potent. While the exact recipes for millions of gallons of solutions and fluids injected into and produced from the sites are proprietary, studies put the number of chemical compounds at 632. Of these, 353 cause illnesses to people or animals exposed to enough of them. Reprinted with permission of the pressconnects.com site Writen by Tom Wilber, twilber@gannett.com | @wilberwrites

The Breeders Crown, harness racing's annual year-end series of 12 championship events, valued at $5.8 million, returns to longtime partner track The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, NJ, for 2016. For the second time in its 42-year history, the Meadowlands will race Standardbred cards in September and October, setting the stage for optimum dates for the Breeders Crown events. The state-of-the-art grandstand built by Jeff Gural opened in November, 2013 and hosted all 12 Breeders Crown events in November of 2014. The one-mile oval in East Rutherford, New Jersey will have hosted 91 Breeders Crown races - more than any other single racetrack. "The Meadowlands has been an extraordinary host to some of the best racing in the world for more than four decades," said Tom Charters, president and CEO of the Hambletonian Society, which owns and administers the Breeders Crown. "Our partnership with Jeff Gural and his management team and the Standardbred Breeders and Owners of New Jersey continues to carry that legacy forward." The Breeders Crown, usually the deciding event in year-end honors, will feature the four open events on Friday, Oct. 28. The eight freshmen and sophomore races will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29. Breeders Crown two-year-old races are the richest offered in the division, with $600,000 finals in each gait and gender. Eliminations for all events, if needed, would be held the prior week. Payments for the 2016 Breeders Crown program commence February 15, and all information can be found here.         . "It is always an honor for the Meadowlands to host the Breeders Crown, harness racing's year-end championship event," said Jason M. Settlemoir, Meadowlands CEO and General Manager. "We have a very long and positive relationship with the Hambletonian Society and it is only fitting for the Breeders Crown to be raced on the sport's greatest stage. We are looking forward to hosting two of the most exciting nights of racing and expect to see more performances that will go down in the history books." The 2015 Breeders Crown night hosted by Woodbine Entertainment Group in Toronto at Woodbine Racetrack generated a Canadian Standardbred record handle of CDN $5,748,950 for the 13-race card. Hoosier Park, home of Standardbred racing in Indiana, will host their first ever Breeders Crown events in the fall of 2017. The seven-eighths mile track, which opened in Anderson in 1994, and is now owned by Centaur Gaming, was awarded all 12 championship races, becoming the 31st racetrack to host the "Crown". "The Breeders Crown series, the horsemen, owners, fans and racetracks benefit in every way by rotating among the best tracks in North America," Charters stated. The 32-year-old series has typically crowned champions in every division for trotters and pacers and has been the deciding factor in Horse of the Year honors since 1984. More than $178 million in purse money has been disbursed over 358 events. Originally conceived and executed as a traveling series, the Crown has traveled to racetracks across North America and been raced as single night or multiple events. $5.8 Million Breeders Crown Championships Meadowlands Racetrack Friday, October 28 $250,000 Mare Trot $250,000 Mare Pace $400,000 Open Pace $500,000 Open Trot Saturday, October 29 $600,000 2-Year-Old Colt Trot $600,000 2-Year-Old Filly Trot $600,000 2-Year-Old Colt Pace $600,000 2-Year-Old Filly Pace $500,000 3-Year-Old Colt Trot $500,000 3-Year-Old Filly Trot $500,000 3-Year-Old Colt Pace $500,000 3-Year-Old Filly Pace In harness racing, it all comes down to the Breeders Crown Thanks to our sponsor            

Early Thursday Harnesslink broke the news on Ron Burke and Julie Miller drug violations. This is the statement that Jeff Gural wrote as a result. Although I am currently on vacation, I have been made aware that apparently several trainers at Yonkers Raceway including Julie Miller and Ron Burke have had horses test positive for glaucine. As you know, Ms. Miller trains several horses for me and Mr. Burke trains Gural Hanover, a horse of which I am a part-owner. Both trainers have already called me and vigorously denied the accusations. At this point, I am unaware if any official action has been taken by the New York Gaming Commission (NYGC) or Yonkers Raceway. I have reached out to officials at the NYGC in an effort to receive more information about the nature of the tests so that we can do our own analysis and draw our own conclusions. I want to be clear; we plan to see what actions, if any, are taken by the NYGC and Yonkers Raceway before we do anything. In addition, representatives of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ) contacted me and have strongly suggested that all of the trainers involved be given their due process rights before any action is taken by my racetracks. The SBOANJ re-affirmed their support for our strong stance on integrity. As such, until an official announcement has been made by the NYGC, Ms. Miller, Mr. Burke, and other trainers whose horses received positive tests that are otherwise in good standing at our three facilities, will be able to race their horses at the Meadowlands. I have directed our own investigator to immediately reach out to Dr. Wan in Hong Kong to see if we can have the many samples we have previously taken from horses trained by Mr. Burke and horses I own that were trained by Ms. Miller to see if glaucine was present in any of those samples. I believe that New York will make the methods used to test for glaucine available to Hong Kong. We are also waiting to see if any other horses in New York test positive for glaucine to see if there is any common element involved, such as the same veterinarians, same feed, same shavings, or the same legitimate feed supplements. Jeff Gural

Nichols, N.Y. - Throughout the second half of 2015, Tioga Downs and the Southern Tier Harness Racing Horsemen's Association teamed up to donate over $47,000 to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, with customers pitching in with over 2,700 cans of non-perishable food items through the month of October. "On behalf of everyone at Tioga Downs, we wanted to make sure that as many families as possible were able to enjoy turkeys at Thanksgiving and substantial Christmas dinners," said Jeff Gural, Chairman of Tioga Downs. From the reprise performance of Chubby Checker at Tioga in July, net ticket sales of $7,360 were donated to the Food Bank, along with $20,030 from Gural. Additionally, Tioga Downs and the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association each contributed $10,000 during the Thanksgiving season. "We've always wanted to give back to the Southern Tier and help where we can, seeing that the Southern Tier supports us all during the racing season," said Guy Howard, president of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association. For more information on racing, gaming, and entertainment at Tioga Downs, visitwww.tiogadowns.com. by James Witherite, Tioga Downs  

As an annual tradition, The View From The Grandstand makes a "wish list" for the coming season. Let's hope that at least a few of these items come true in 2016. An easy transition to the timing of races in hundredths.  This change begins on January 1.  Say good bye to 1:49.3 (where '.3' is 3/5ths instead of your math class 3/10ths) and say hello to 1:49.25 which will be mathematically correct.  What will make things more interesting is while American races will be timed in hundredths, Canadian races will continue to be timed in fifths. A great FFA season.  The seeds have been planted for a great campaign with some of the best horses we have seen in quite awhile.  Hopefully, the upcoming year will live up to the hype. Another great Yonkers International.  It may be a throwback to our glory days but let's not kid ourselves, it shows what racing should be; an international affair. No disrespect intended to John Campbell, but the formal coronation of Tim Tetrick as our 'driver laureate', our new globe trotting ambassador for harness racing and all around class guy. The continued truce between Jeff Gural and Joe Faraldo.  If you haven't noticed it, things have been quiet of late between the two men.  We like it this way.  Both have their own views on how racing should be saved, and at times they are diametrically opposite of each other, but public bickering doesn't help anyone. A 'relatively' quiet Meadowlands meet, one without controversy, no talk about exclusions and counting to one hundred before announcing any new policies. While on the subject of the Meadowlands, full fields, dare I say overflow fields once Yonkers and other tracks reopen?  It has been nice these past two weeks having full fields.  I realize the odds are the overflow entries will be disappearing, but hey, you can hope. With the deadline to get a casino gambling amendment to the legislative floor this year having passed, we wish for super majorities in 2016 so a North Jersey gaming referendum can reach the ballot box.  Face it, every year a referendum doesn't get voted on, the Meadowlands programs gets shaved a little bit more. In Florida, the failure of the de-coupling movement for if the state manages to de-couple racing from their card rooms and casino floors, it will only be a matter of time until de-coupling spreads like a virus. A successful Suburban Downs meet at Hawthorne.  Success at Suburban Downs may make Hawthorne value their harness meet besides the fact they control the revenue from OTW. 2017 racing dates for Balmoral and Maywood Park.  Hey, we can dream can't we? If Thunder Ridge Raceway races in 2016, customers.  Betting customers.  Heck, when I would be considered a whale, a track is in big trouble. If not the return of Harness Racing Update, a new publication to discuss the serious issues involving racing.  One can't expect publications operated by racing organizations to deal with the serious issues. If the long discussed USTA racing channel on the Internet comes to fruition, the creation of an app which can be watched on devices such as Roku, Fire TV, and other devices.  Some of us dinosaurs still like watching racing on their televisions, even if the signals come from the Internet. Donald Trump.  Face it, as long as we have Donald in the Presidential election, even the stupidest thing done in the standardbred industry will look like sheer genius. Back to New Jersey, a successful debut of exchange wagering which will be profitable not only for racetracks but convince those doubters in states such as California they should adopt exchange wagering. The return of Walter Case.  We can dream can't we? Billy Parker in the Hall of Fame (this will be on my list until it happens) More racing opportunities in Michigan. Co-mingling of foreign pools into American pools and vice-versa. Introducing a mile rate for races shorter or longer than a standard mile.  A mile rate will make it easier to handicap races; especially when horses race at different distances. Another successful year for RUS Ontario.  Perhaps hosting a race or two in the Martimes, maybe during Old Home Week? Pari-mutuel wagering for American racing under saddle events.  I know there are doubters out there but until it is given a fair chance, we don't know do we? Cal Expo exercise their option early and begin negotiating an extension of the lease to Watch and Wager early as the lease to operate a harness meet at Cal Expo ends in 2017. With the cancellation of PA Harnessweek, a new gig for Heather Vitale and Steve Ross. A return to the day when post time meant post time (we can pray for miracles can't we?) A winning year at the windows.  Now that would be a Christmas miracle. Allan Shott has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He runs the website/blog http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/.  Allan’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

While the first three harness racing weekends of The Meadowlands meet were impossible to compare to the prior year due to The Breeders Crown being raced at the East Rutherford oval in 2014, this past weekend was the first true indicator in terms of wagering handle. The early returns are very encouraging.   The Friday, December 4th program handled $2,758,743 compared to $2,273,465 in 2014, an increase of $485,278 or 21-percent. On Saturday, December 5th, total handle was $2,722,745, compared to $2,307,791 in 2014, an increase of $414,954, or 18-percent. Combined the weekend saw $900,232 in additional handle compared to 2014, or 19.6 percent. In addition, on-track handle realized an increase of over 10-percent as well.   "The first three weekends of the meet were hard to gauge," said Chairman Jeff Gural. We were comparing to handle figures that centered around the Breeders Crown and our TVG Championships were contested on a different weekend as well. This was our first direct comparison of the meet and it is certainly encouraging."   Full fields remain the key to The Meadowlands success. "We have the bigger track with 10 horses across. That is where we have an edge and we have to capitalize on that. We had 254 betting interests in 26 races, that's nearly 9.8 horses per race, which is where we need to be."   Gural added that coordinating post times has become a focal point of the meet as well. "We hired a consultant who coordinates with other racetracks, thoroughbred and standardbred alike so that our races are not going off at the same time as races that could negatively impact our handle. There are so many tracks out there to keep track of and to have one person being able to focus on just that task throughout the night is a big help to us. We have also developed a schedule with Woodbine where our races are essentially ten minutes apart from one another. We haven't had a single race this meet go off close to Woodbine."   There have been a few other tweaks that seem to be helping as well. "The earlier post certainly hasn't hampered us thus far and it has helped on the back end of the card as we aren't ending too late. In addition, by moving post up, we were able to put a race between our early and late pick four and this weekend shows us that move is working as well. On this weekend in 2014, our early pick four averaged $42,000 and our late pick four came in at $63,000. This year the early pick four averaged $49,000 and the late pick four $72,000, so that move seems to have helped as well."   The on-track attendance is also an area in which Gural's team is making a big push. "We are spending serious money in marketing and promotions to bring people to the facility for racing. We have a presence in midtown Manhattan in the form of a large digital billboard and we have other strategically located billboards throughout the New York City area. We have pushed forward with direct marketing and retaining our current players as well as building our player rewards club, which has grown every month this year. Our on-track promotions are second to none and we have a giveaway every race night. This past Saturday there was a line out the door to get a long sleeve t-shirt. We will continue to push forward in enhancing the on-track experience. We also had a Christmas Party for our VIP guests this past Saturday and all of our skyboxes were filled with groups holding their Christmas parties at The Meadowlands. The facility continues to prove to be marketable to groups for all occasions."   Another interesting observation is that Friday did as well as Saturday. "We have less competition in terms of the overall product available to bettors on Friday and that seems to help us there as well. If we can bring Friday to the same level as Saturday and have some weekends where both nights handle $3 Million, that would be very encouraging."   Gural is looking forward to the next few months. "Hopefully horsemen keep entering their horses like they did this weekend and we can keep putting full and competitive fields on the track for our customers. That is the most important factor for us without question."   Racing returns on Friday, December 11th, with post time at 7:00 P.M.   Darin Zoccali

After discussions with representatives of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, The Meadowlands has decided to delay its implementation of the trainers reports on each horses condition until a meeting with the SBOANJ takes place. The purpose of the meeting is to determine the most effective and efficient way of implementing such a program. "We want to be clear that this program is designed to provide as much information to the betting public as possible with the purpose of protecting that betting public," said Jeff Gural, President of the Meadowlands. "This should be viewed as an experiment with the end goal in mind being the protection of our customers, the wagering public. "In thoroughbred racing horses have individual workouts that are timed, given designations to describe how the horse was ridden," Gural explained. "And then that information is published in the Daily Racing Form. Furthermore, the clockers have taken it a step further by providing "clockers reports", in which they give their opinion on each workout they see. "This idea we are trying to implement follows the same line of thinking," Gural added, "We are simply trying to provide information on how a horse is doing, that maybe doesn't show up in a program. "We will update everyone further after we meet with the SBOANJ." by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands  

Presiding Judge John Tomasello has informed Meadowlands Racetrack management Saturday evening that driver Brian Sears has been suspended for 15 days for "lack of judgment in his driving performance," pertaining to his drive of Bee A Magician in the second race on Friday night at The Meadowlands. No other details were made available at this time. The hearing had been scheduled for Saturday, regarding the drive of Bee A Magician in the 2nd race at The Meadowlands on Friday night. Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural was flabbergasted by what transpired and believes the betting public needs to be protected. The matter will be investigated and a course of action regarding this race will proceed accordingly. A hearing has been scheduled with Brian Sears for later today. After the conclusion of the hearing with , an update will be offered to our customers and the industry. In addition, a meeting of the drivers and trainers has been scheduled for 6:15 this evening where this matter will most certainly be spoken about. Mr. Gural made it clear to Bee A Magician's trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman that the effort put forth on the racetrack was unacceptable and to Mr. Norman's credit he understood and agreed that it was a mistake for Brian Sears to drive the horse so conservatively although because the horse had been tying up he did tell Brian to try not to race her on the front end. After consulting with and at the suggestion of several trainers that Mr. Gural spoke with, it has been decided that going forward every trainer will be obligated to give the race office an update on how the horse they are entering has been training so that information can be provided to our customers, who are the betting public. Without them, we would not exist and they must be protected. The information will be printed in our live program and will be available on our website as well. Effective immediately, all trainers that have entered horses to race at The Meadowlands will be required to supply a comment regarding how their horse trained a minimum of 72 hours prior to the race day and that report will be included in the live race program and will be accessible in the "race review" portion of The Meadowlands website. It is expected that all trainers with horses racing on Friday will submit an update on how their horse trained no later than 5:00 P.M. Tuesday and horses entered for Saturday are required to have their update submitted no later than 5:00 P.M. Wednesday. All trainers are to submit the update on how their horse trained to the email address trainers@playmeadowlands.com. In the event a trainer does not have e-mail access, he is asked to provide the update over the phone to The Meadowlands race office. If a trainer does not provide the necessary information, the race office will call the trainer until he/she is reached. This policy is being implemented to protect the betting public as they are the reason we are all here. We thank the horsemen for their anticipated cooperation in this matter. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands  

The following is a message from Jeff Gural on the start of the new Meadowlands race meet. "As the new season begins we believe this is the most pivotal in the history of Standardbred racing at the Meadowlands. It is quite obvious that without the benefit of alternative gambling it is very difficult for the Meadowlands to compete with tracks in New York and Pennsylvania for horses and for the breeders in New Jersey to compete as well. We are currently focused on having a referendum placed on the ballot in 2016 that would allow for gambling outside of Atlantic City, at which point, we would then bid on what is likely to be two or three licenses. While there is no assurance that we would win in polling, the only location that the voters are supportive of is the Meadowlands and because we could convert over to a casino so quickly we believe we have an advantage over any other possible bidders. We hope to have this legislation passed in early January so that we have as much time as possible to put a campaign together to try to get the measure approved by the voters in November. Preliminary estimates are that a campaign of this nature costs between $15 Million - $30 Million depending on how much opposition arises. We are asking for the support of all owners, drivers and trainers as we believe it is critical to build momentum heading towards this crucial vote. We need to show the value of the Meadowlands to the people of New Jersey by helping us put on competitive racing with full fields and as many people in the grandstand as possible. We have built a beautiful facility with excellent customer service and excellent food provided by ARK Restaurant. Hopefully when your horses are racing you will come rather than watching on a computer and enjoy spending the evening in Trotters and bring some friends along who might possibly get interested in becoming owners as well. It is clear that if we are going to have a successful breeding business we need to find young people to purchase yearlings as those like myself are gradually slowing down. In an effort to promote standardbred racing here, The Meadowlands has spent $1.5 Million in marketing in 2015 and will spend another $1.5 Million in 2016. Right now, evidence of these expenses can be seen all over the New Jersey and New York City areas, including on the New Jersey Turnpike, inbound and outbound at the Lincoln Tunnel, and a large video sign in midtown Manhattan at 49th Street and 7th Avenue. We believe that The Meadowlands has established itself as the industry leader in promoting and marketing harness racing including our out of competition drug testing program and we ask that in return, owners, drivers and trainers support the Meadowlands in this most important racing season. Thank you and hope to see you in Trotters as the season progresses." Sincerely, Jeff Gural Important horsemen's meeting at the Meadowlands There will be a required meeting for horsemen wishing to compete at The Meadowlands this racing season on Saturday, November 14th.  The meeting will take place in the driver’s lounge in the paddock and will begin at 6:15 P.M.  It is important that all parties who will be competing at The Meadowlands this year attend this meeting.

VERNON, NY (October 15, 2015) - When hip number 410, a Conway Hall filly out of the mare Classic Yankee, walked into the sales ring at last week's Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, the expected sets of eyes watched with anticipation as the bidding began. Harness racing breeder Crawford Farms was hoping for a profitable sales price and interested buyers watched as the price inched upwards. Perhaps not surprisingly, the filly, already named Vernondownthehouse, was purchased by Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural for $65,000. But another interested party located in Central New York has plenty riding on the horse as well, even if that person was not watching at the time the horse sold. Stacey Michaud, a racing fan at Vernon Downs, is the one responsible for the filly's name, having submitted it during a Crawford Farms sponsored Name That Foal contest in August 2014 at the racetrack. Besides seeing her creative selection picked as the winning name, she is also in line to earn a potentially nice payday. As part of winning the contest, Michaud is entitled to one-percent of the filly's earnings during her two and three-year-old racing seasons. "Any time you purchase a yearling you always dream of having the next champion," said the filly's owner, Jeff Gural. "But in this case, I am really hoping to help a loyal Vernon Downs fan make some extra money through this promotion we did with our partners at Crawford Farms. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best." The filly will be sent to trainer Julie Miller to be prepared for a racing career that will hopefully begin next season and include many trips to the winner's circle. For complete racing and promotional information, visit www.vernondowns.com. #410 VERNONDOWNTHEHOUSE from Michelle Crawford on Vimeo.   Justin Horowitz

The owner of the Tioga Downs racino in New York’s Southern Tier says a recent presentation to state officials made him optimistic about his proposal to expand his facility into a full casino. Jeff Gural told The Associated Press on Friday that the recent meeting with the state’s casino location review board went well and he’s confident local residents will support his plans at a public hearing scheduled for Friday in Binghamton. Gural also owns Vernon Downs and has said the futures of both harness racing tracks are linked. Tioga Downs submitted a bid for a casino license last year but the board instead recommended three other projects around the state. Tioga Downs submitted a second application when bidding was reopened for a fourth license.  

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has formed the NY State Task Force on Retired Racehorses and held a Summit on the topic at the Fasig Tipton Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 1st. There were five panels comprised of representatives of the NY Racing Assoc.; Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; Thoroughbred Charities of America; several racetracks; several horsesmens associations; the NY State Racing and Wagering Board; horse adoption programs; and the United States Trotting Association (USTA).   The Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF), Sunshine Horses, Jeff Gural, and the USTA spoke in the early afternoon after digesting the massive efforts the Thoroughbred industry has implemented and the hefty funding charities receive from the industry. Monies raised from percentages, and dollar amounts of mandatory and voluntary contributions from starting fees, jockey fees, purses, and contributions fund the numerous programs.   The Thoroughbred typically has a market after racing, as they are popular in the riding arena, whereas, the Standardbred does not. SRF noted that the average time a Standardbred horse will last in an adoptive home is just 3.3 years and that should trigger a warning to the charities to do follow-up. None of the charities receiving funds have an active follow-up program for Standardbreds; SRF and Sunshine horses do, however, neither receive funds from these initiatives. "We need to make sure we are doing the right thing," said Judy Bokman, SRF's Executive Director. "Maybe the Thoroughbred is more popular as a riding companion and there is not as great a concern for their long-term well being in a home, but for the Standardbred, I keep thinking about what a veterinarian once said to me, "I am not helping any charity that takes horses from the track to avoid a trip to slaughter only to starve in backyards."   It was belittling to follow the talk of the initiatives the Thoroughbred industry has taken when the Standardbred industry has done so little. Jeff Gural sees a solution as slots generate 180 million dollars in NYS each year, "A small percent would solve the problem." Funding was one of the things the Standardbred charities noted as a challenge, the lack of good homes, locations for retired horses to be boarded reasonably to live out their lives, and other locations for the adoption program to operate from were others.   Some horses will find a forever home with all these wonderful strides being made, and the efforts deserve great applause, but there are two items left unsolved. One is helping the unadoptable ones, as it was noted that only adoptable horses receive help, and what to do in time when these horses age in their adopted homes and are no longer wanted. Standardbred Retirement Foundation | 353 Sweetmans Lane, Suite 101 | Millstone Twp. | NJ | 08535

East Rutherford, NJ - Meadowlands President Jeff Gural recently hosted a dinner party where the guest of honor was the President of the United States, Barack Obama. Those involved in harness racing know Mr. Gural via his long-term passion for the sport. He maintains a racing stable, standardbred breeding farms in New York and Pennsylvania as well as operating three racetracks. His current focus is on directing the renaissance of The Meadowlands, the industry's flagship track.   In his business life, Jeff is the Chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, one of the world's leading commercial real estate advisory firms. He serves on several Boards for various Manhattan associations and consistently gives generously of his time and resources to a number of charities.   "I am honored to have been able to host this event for President Obama to help raise funds for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that I care deeply about," Gural remarked. "It was a great evening where President Obama made some brief remarks and even stayed and answered questions of the guests attending the event for nearly an hour. I want to thank President Obama and all those that took time to attend the event." Also attending the event were noted Standardbred owners and businessmen George Segal and Adam Victor.   Meadowlands Media Relations Department  

Harness Racing Update has reported that Hall of Fame trainer Chuck Sylvester has been hit with a Cobalt positive in Pennsylvania after a horse he trained tested for an excess level of the banned substance. Sylvester has been handed a 15-day suspension and a $500 fine by the Pennsylvania Harness Commission. An even bigger problem for Sylvester could be his status at the Jeff Gural-owned racetracks. Gural said yesterday that if a split sample taken from the horse also tests positive for the drug then Sylvester will no longer be allowed to compete at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs. He also said the two horses Sylvester trains for him will be moved to a new barn. "This is a total shock to me and very disappointing," Gural said. The horse Murderers Row, a 3-year-old filly, tested positive for Cobalt after a June 16 race at Pocono in which she finished third. A week later she was second in a June 24 race at Chester and has not raced since. Sylvester said yesterday he did nothing wrong. "It was shocking to me," he said. "I have no idea how this happened. All I know is that I'm the trainer on record and that I'm going to get 15 days. That's all I can tell you. I am embarrassed that something like this happened and I have no idea why it happened. It's a horrible thing to have it happen to you. I know some people do get positives and they haven't done anything wrong. That's absolutely what happened to me." To view the rest of this story click here. 

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