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Self-described ‘horse guy’ and ‘numbers guy’ has grand vision for Meadowlands – and says casino there would also benefit Atlantic City.j Family: Married for 50 years, he has three children and six grandchildren. All of his family remains in the metro area, except for a granddaughter attending college in South Carolina. Home is Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Title: Chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a real estate firm with more than 350 offices worldwide, which he has led with a partner since 1978. Gural is also chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, which runs two standardbred horse-racing tracks with slot machines (“racinos”) in upstate New York, and operates the Meadowlands Racetrack at the East Rutherford Sports Complex. He also owns horse-breeding farms in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Growing up trackside: Gural’s connection to “the sport of kings” dates back to his childhood in suburban Long Island. “I’ve had a love affair with harness racing since I was growing up in Woodmere,” he said. Nearby was Roosevelt Raceway, a half-mile track that operated from 1940 through 1988. “When I was a kid, harness racing was really popular and me and my friends would go on the weekends.” The sport held several attractions for the savvy youngster. “I’m a horse guy,” Gural said. “I’m also a numbers guy.” He became fascinated with handicapping, among other aspects, and, well, “once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.” In the news: Gural’s public profile expanded greatly last month when he joined with Hard Rock Casino’s chief executive Jim Allen to officially announce plans to develop a world-class casino complex at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Gural has pledged more than half the gambling revenue to state coffers -- estimated to reach $500 million annually -- to support various social programs, as well as the state’s struggling horse-racing industry. The Hard Rock team also promised as much as $100 million to help long-suffering Atlantic City, which lost four of its dozen casinos in the past year. Several hurdles remain before their plan can advance. State legislators need to agree on how and where to expand casino gaming. Voters must approve a change to the state’s constitution, which now limits gambling to within Atlantic City. And Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who controls the flow of legislation, confirmed on Tuesday to the Associated Press that this process will remain on hold until next year. Sweeney said he wants time for a public debate on the issue and has claimed, in the past, that 2016 – when voter turnout will be boosted by the presidential election – would offer supporters a better shot. New to New Jersey: Gural and his Newmark partners own several properties in the Garden State and the firm has an office in the Meadowlands area, but he had little experience with the Garden State’s political infrastructure before taking over the track. As a committed Democrat, he has raised money for – and gotten to know -- New Jersey’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Robert Menendez and Corey Booker, but Gural described his relationship with elected officials in the Meadowlands and Trenton as “absolutely none.” However, when he heard the historic Meadowlands Racetrack, a premiere site for harness racing that dates to 1976, could be on its last lap, he wanted to get involved. “When the governor announced he was going to close the Meadowlands (Racetrack),” Gural said, “at the last minute I was able to reach out to someone in his office and I offered to see if they would be willing to lease me the facility instead of close it.” Gural struck what some have called a sweetheart deal, but not without costs on his part. In December 2011 he signed a 30-year lease with the state to operate the racetrack; the annual payment of $1 rises to $500,000 after the first five years. He is also guaranteed the first shot at a casino license, should gaming become legal in the Meadowlands. Gural invested close to $100 million in renovations over his first 18 months at the track, including building an entirely new grandstand with a swanky rooftop lounge that has been a draw for younger crowds. Despite all the upgrades, Gural said his harness-racing business is still struggling. The problem is industry-wide; sports fans have migrated to other pastimes and breeding farms are losing space to developers. Gural said races now run several nights a week at the mile-long Meadowlands track, but often with “short fields” – seven horses instead of 10, for example. With fewer horses, the volume and size of bets decline and revenue dwindles. “The biggest problem I have is that harness racing is subsidized heavily in New York and Pennsylvania,” he explained, while prize money is much smaller in New Jersey without a state contribution to the purse. “They’ve chosen correctly to support this” industry, Gural said, adding that the racing business is following the money. Looking to Atlantic City: Horse racing in New Jersey has long had a close, complex, almost parasitic relationship with Atlantic City’s casino industry, which once helped support the state’s struggling equine industry. In addition to watching the gaming competition at casinos and racetracks in New York, Pennsylvania and other regional states, Gural has seen one shorefront casino after another closed in Atlantic City. Instead of being siphoned off by neighboring states, he believes this revenue could help New Jersey’s racing industry, including his piece in the Meadowlands. When Gural and Allen announced their plans to develop the casino facility in the Meadowlands – with gaming of all kinds, multiple entertainment options, high-end shopping and, they hope, eventually a hotel – they both stressed it was not a battle between south and north Jersey, but a pitch to reclaim business lost to other states. “We need to bring back the people in northern New Jersey who now drive across the (George Washington) Bridge,” to casinos upstate, “or out Route 78 to Bethlehem,” where other gaming options beckon, Gural said – conceding that his “racinos” in New York may suffer in the process. A long race: “It’s discouraging, really discouraging,” Gural said of Sen. President Sweeney’s reluctance to put the question on the November ballot this year. “Personally, I think it would be better this year, but it’s their decision, (but they’ve promised us they’ll put it on the ballot next year.” Gural and Allen have offered to spend $10 million to $20 million to campaign for the measure, to make sure voters understand that their proposal involves far more than just slot machines at the racetrack. The facility has the ideal location to draw customers from the region and world, given its proximity to international airports, they said. “The most important thing is to not go on the ballot and lose,” Gural added. “Hopefully we’ll be able to win next year.” Lilo H Stainton Reproduced with permission of New Jersey Spotlight - Check site here

Nearly 10,000 partygoers came out to the Life in Color Concert on Sunday, June 28th at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. The event was both well-coordinated and well-received by the paint-happy concert goers. An event that included a wide array of music presented by different disc jockeys as well as an artistic spin with those partaking in the festivities running and dancing through paint, the Life in Color event was certainly the first of its kind at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. The success of the event carries a great deal of significance for the venue. "To say we tried something new with this event, would be an understatement," said Meadowlands General Manager/C.E.O. Jason Settlemoir. "Not only did the event take place without a hitch, but it was successful in terms of the enjoyment of those who came out for the event. Those two items are of the utmost importance to us moving forward as we continue to expand what Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment can accomplish. I would especially like to thank our Assistant General Manager, Marianne Rotella for putting together a plan for this event and executing it flawlessly." Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural spoke to what the success of this event means to the future of The Meadowlands. "This was another big step for us," said Gural. "Of course, we are fully committed to the success of our racing product, but this event signifies what building this new facility was all about. Not only is The New Meadowlands a gorgeous facility, but it enables us to put forth events that would never have been possible had we continued to operate out of the original facility. It just its first 18 months of operation, we have hosted a huge party for 10,000 people as well hosting the Super Bowl V.I.P. party, which included a performance by John Legend. It is extremely important to The Meadowlands that we can be successful hosting events like Life in Color and execute the operational aspects of the event as if we have been in the business of hosting these events for years. Life in Color proved that we can do that and it creates avenues for our hosting events like this in the future. I am hopeful that we will only expand on this aspect of our business moving forward, especially in June of 2016, when our racing schedule becomes challenged to do a difficulty to find an adequate amount of horses to race. I am optimistic we can continue to maximize the potential of the entertainment aspects of this beautiful facility." With Life in Color a success, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment will continue to grow its presence in the entertainment world and will attract increased attention from those looking to host major events in the tri-state area. Visit playmeadowlands.com for all upcoming events and details.   Darin Zoccali

Harness racing at the "Big M" has certainly looked up since Jeff Gural became involved in 2011. When it looked as though the famous Meadowlands Racetrack would close its doors for good, Jeff Gural stepped in and right from day one has started to turn the complex around. The new stand is a testament to his determination to make the business work for everyone involved The old way of doing things was gone and as you would expect in such circumstances Jeff Gural has ruffled a few feathers amomgst the established players there as he attempted to turn the Meadowlands into a multi faceted business of which harness racing is only a small part. Just this week, Gural announced the proposal in conjunction with the Hard Rock International group to develop a huge casino and entertainment complex on the Meadowlands site. There are still several hurdles for the proposal to clear with the major one being getting the issue on the ballot in 2015 in New Jersey. Jeff Gural went on In The Sulky today to explain what the proposed complex would mean for harness racing at The Meadowlands and the problems still facing the project. Harnesslink Media

East Rutherford, NJ - When the notion to keep Harness Racing’s brightest stars on the racetrack beyond their three-year-old season was being considered by Jeff Gural as far back as 2010, it was the lure of having a "marquee" horse to promote that fueled his campaign to change the conditions of stakes to that end. Known as the “Gural rule” and currently in place for most of the major stakes, that vision is coming into focus as the 2015 Grand Circuit season gets underway in earnest.   To succeed, this initiative requires that rare equine athlete with talent and charisma enough to hold the attention of existing fans and pique the interest of new ones. Those qualities may well be embodied in the remarkably gifted trotter, Father Patrick. Crowned as the leader in his division at both two and three, Father Patrick has been touted by no less an authority that his Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter as “the best horse I have ever trained”. The career winner of more than $2.5 million boasts a long list of accomplishments and just may possess the necessary "Star Power”.    Father Patrick was bred by George Segal’s Brittany Farms and purchased from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $100,000 by Jimmy Takter for a group that included Brittany, Brixton Medical, John Fielding, Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld, Sam Goldband and Christina Takter. Adam Bowden came in after his freshman season to secure the breeding rights for his Diamond Creek Farm.     With his Dan Patch award-winning sophomore season complete and faced with another year on the track, members of the Father Patrick Stable contemplated how they might make the best of it. The group ultimately chose to implement a practice that is commonplace in Europe but heretofore untested in the US. Their decision was to breed Father Patrick to a limited book of top mares while he was being prepared for and embarking upon his four-year-old campaign; a decision that creates a new realm of possibilities if successful and the dual-purpose use of top horses in the US should become a viable option.     As winter turned to spring, Takter trained Father Patrick at his East Windsor, NJ farm and shipped him to nearby Walnridge Farm a few times each week to be bred. Throughout the course of this "double-duty" Father Patrick responded brilliantly on both fronts. By late April he was ready to race.    After three impressive qualifiers, Father Patrick had his baptism by fire in the $150,000 Maxie Lee facing the best older trotters around. Chief among the competition was 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, a five-year-old mare that was coming into the race off a pair of dominant performances in the Arthur Cutler Memorial.   The match-up of Father Patrick vs Bee A Magician, billed as the “Race of the Year” to that point, could not have been possible without Father Patrick’s return to the track at age four, which would have to be considered unlikely if not for the Gural rule. Father Patrick’s ability to compete with that group was proven out by his effortless 1:52.1 wire-to-wire romp in the Maxie Lee.    Yannick Gingras knows the horse well, having driven Father Patrick in virtually every race since the start of his career and spoke of his impressions on the physical and mental maturation from age three to four.   “I think breeding him has had a positive effect, he’s definitely changed from a boy to a man this year,” was Yannick’s take. “He is a smart horse that allows you to race him any way and the gait and athletic ability were always there for him, but this season he is more aggressive in a good way. I trained him several times this winter and could feel a difference, more power and determination.   “To be honest he was a tired horse by the end of last season. It was a lot of racing and shipping around for him and he won the Breeders Crown pretty much on talent and instinct. Knowing that, I was concerned how he might come back but he’s been so good I’m now wondering what he might be able to do even beyond this year. Granted it is very early but I feel he’s the kind of horse that could compete with the best International horses if the owners were to continue racing him. Personally, I’d love a chance to race him against the Europeans and test them with the very best we have when he's at the top of his game.”   With the world's fastest trotter Sebastian K's return to racing imminent, expatriate Maven rumored to be state-side this fall, TVG champ Intimidate sharpening his game in Canada, Natural Herbie rounding into form in the Midwest, European invader Mr Picolit qualifying tomorrow at The Meadowlands and Elitlopp winner Magic Tonight reportedly headed this way the possibilities for a fantastic trotting season right here in the good old US of A are intriguing, to say the least.    There are many components to advancing the "Gural Rule" and when asked by the industry to provide racing opportunities for the newly minted four-year-olds to gain seasoning as they prepare to compete with the older set, Gural responded by resurrecting the Graduate Series restricted to horses of that age. The four race series will provide over $1 million in total purses for the group with $250,000 Finals for both trotters and pacers set for early July at The Meadowlands.   The second leg of the Graduate comes up this Saturday at The Meadowlands and Father Patrick will participate in the eleventh race, facing six rivals for a purse of $56,250. His presence adds luster to the Belmont Day live program, offering customers a chance to see the best both breeds have to offer in one day.   There are four Graduate races on the Saturday night card, two for pacers with the finest of that group set to slug it out and a pair of trots with 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry headlining the other division.   The Meadowlands offers a terrific venue in which to enjoy American Pharoah’s Triple Crown quest without the throng that will crowd into Belmont Park. Details on what the afternoon/evening at The Meadowlands has to offer including the second annual Seafood Fest are listed on the website. Post time on Saturday is 7:15pm.   Meadowlands Media Relations Department 

East Rutherford, NJ --- Hard Rock International, owner of one of the world’s most iconic and recognized brands, announced today its plan to build a casino at the Meadowlands in New Jersey the home of harness racing. The proposed entertainment destination would be ideally situated in northern New Jersey and is projected to generate $400 million of new tax revenues a year. “With its close proximity to an international airport, the new casino would be designed to attract visitors from not only the 14 million adults in northern New Jersey and New York City, but also international travelers, making it a premier entertainment destination,” said Jim Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International. “The significant tax revenue brought into New Jersey could go directly to aid in the development and reconstruction of Atlantic City’s casino and hotel industry.” Reports show a casino in northern New Jersey would help draw visitors from other states, creating competition with New York and Pennsylvania, who have taken more than $13 billion in revenue from New Jersey in the past eight years since they’ve expanded their gaming options. “We’re thrilled to bring this great offering to the New Meadowlands Racetrack,” said Jeff Gural, Chairman of New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC. “With its expertise in gaming, hotels, restaurants, live events, entertainment, and retail offerings, Hard Rock International is the ideal partner for New Meadowlands Racetrack; bringing the globally recognized brand to the racetrack elevates excitement surrounding the project.” The Hard Rock Casino will feature 5,000 slot machines and 200 gaming tables. The project will also feature ten restaurants and four bars; a multi-purpose Hard Rock Live showroom; New Jersey Music Hall of Fame; and “The Vault,” a music memorabilia museum expertly curated by Hard Rock -- owners of the world’s largest music memorabilia collection. The entertainment destination will also offer retail shops and a six-story parking garage conveniently located just steps away from the casino grounds. Gural reiterated his continuing commitment to harness racing as part of the future Hard Rock plans. “I’m a horse guy and that’s what brought me here,” he said. “In my heart, this is good for the state of New Jersey. We are dedicated to making this work for the entire state of New Jersey, we certainly would offer jobs to people who lost their jobs in Atlantic City.” He also cited the importance of the 13,000 New Jersey citizens who make their living in the equine business, and specifically about half of those who make their living through horse racing. Gural expressed his optimism that the annual tax revenue to the state would exceed Hard Rock’s $400 million projections, especially in the first few years when other New Jersey competition may be limited initially. Attendance was heavy from dozens of state political leaders, business executives and union representatives, who support the proposed plan and the jobs and economic engine it would provide for the region. State Senator Paul Sarlo acknowledged the political challenges at hand and pledged to “balance competing interests with all our colleagues.” Central to the proposal, and delineated on a graphic presentation shown to attendees, is a “minimum $300 billion investment in Atlantic City (infrastructure) via tax exempt bonds.” Estimates call for creation of about 2,360 construction jobs and 5,000 ongoing jobs. In a question and answer session at the close of prepared presentations, the issue of overcoming the constitutional amendment that states that no casinos are allowed to operate outside Atlantic City was addressed. Current legislative action is focused on an enabling referendum that would amend the constitution to allow for casinos outside Atlantic City, which is located about 125 miles south of The Meadowlands. At present, there is no consensus among political leaders on whether the referendum should run this fall, when there will likely be lower turnout than expected in the presidential election in 2016, or to run it next fall, when turnout will be higher, but costs to reach voters to educate them about the issue will be more expensive. Both Allen and Gural favor a 2015 referendum and believe that with voter approval, they could have the first phase of the project ready in the summer or early fall of 2016. Gural said research on the possible referendum indicates the measure would be well received this fall and that costs to educate voters on the issue would be in the range of $10 to 20 million. Also at issue is the question of how many casinos will be allowed, with some lawmakers favoring one, and some up to three, with consideration also given to Monmouth Park, a Thoroughbred track along the New Jersey shore. by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications 

Upstate New York congressman Paul Tonko plans to introduce a federal bill establishing uniform drug and medication standards in thoroughbred racing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and begin in 2017. This announcement was made on Friday in Washington, DC.   The racing industry has been regulated on a state-by-state basis with a patchwork of rules and penalties, and he said it's time to set a level playing field at racetracks nationwide. The legislation would allow USADA to create a drug agency specifically for racing. USADA, an independent agency, is the national anti-doping organization in the U.S. for the Olympics.   Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural voiced his support for the bill, "I was extremely pleased to read about Congressman Tonko's plans to introduce legislation that will lead to much needed medication reform in horse racing and about the coalition that has been formed to move that initiative forward. As someone who has gone to great lengths to get performance-enhancing drugs out of the sport, including the implementation of "house rules," I fully support these efforts and I hope the standardbred industry will follow the Thoroughbred racing initiative."   This initiative also has the support of the Water Hay & Oats Alliance (WHOA) .   The complete Daily Gazette article may be read here.   (With files from the Schenectady Daily Gazette)   From Meadowlands Media Relations:

Hard Rock Casino Meadowlands — a partnership between the Florida-based gaming company and the Meadowlands Racetrack — is the name of a proposed new casino that will be unveiled next week, track operator Jeff Gural said Tuesday. The announcement will come about a month before a deadline for state election officials to approve a question for the November ballot on ending Atlantic City’s casino monopoly in New Jersey. State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney said last July that he would seek to place such a referendum in on the November 2015 ballot because the deadline to add it to the November 2014 ballot had just passed. But three weeks ago, Sweeney said he was considering whether to wait a year, until the 2016 general election, given the low turnout expected with only Assembly members up for statewide election this fall. “We believe that expanding gaming to North Jersey will strengthen the state’s casino industry, boost the economy and help Atlantic City’s financial recovery, but there is no specific timetable at this point,” said Richard McGrath, Sweeney’s spokesman. Gural and other North Jersey casino supporters, however, say the ailing horse racing and Atlantic City casino industries cannot wait any longer to benefit from shares of an estimated $400 million or more in annual tax revenues that could be raised from operation of a Meadowlands casino. “We’re offering to pay a high tax rate, around 50 percent, just like Pennsylvania,” Gural said, adding that the new casino would be attached to the two-year-old grandstand near Paterson Plank Road. “I know there are people who think we’d just be building ‘slots in a box,’ but this is a spectacular project and I want them to see what we have in mind.” The renderings and video of the proposal are to be shown at a press conference next Wednesday at the new grandstand. State Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, who has been briefed on the proposal, said that Hard Rock makes for a “premier international and gaming partner” for the track. “It doesn’t automatically mean that Jeff is getting [a casino], but he is out of the gate much quicker than anybody else,” Sarlo said. Gural said that polling has shown that the Meadowlands is a more popular site for a casino than potential locations in Jersey City and Newark, given the absence of residences on the grounds of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Approval of the ballot question, which is likely to ask voters to approve up to two casinos in North Jersey, is far from assured. But if the ballot question is offered and then passes in November, the Legislature and Governor Christie — as they did following a referendum supporting sports betting in 2011 — likely would turn that support into law by early 2016. That would be followed by a months-long bidding process, likely pushing a casino opening into 2018 at the earliest. In 2013, Hard Rock, a subsidiary of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment, announced an equity stake of 16 percent of the new $100 million Meadowlands grandstand that was then under construction. That deal included an option to invest in “any projected future developments at the racetrack” and to promote concerts and festivals at the track. Three months ago, Hard Rock was issued a “certificate of compliance” by the Casino Control Commission that would be a preliminary requirement for a casino anywhere that it was permitted by the state. Gural reached an agreement in 2011 with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority that entitles him to a refund of his construction costs if a casino is built at the Meadowlands Sports Complex and operated by anyone other than him. By John Brennan Reprinted with permission of Northjersey.com

Jeff Gural opened his remarks at last Thursday’s B’nai B’rith luncheon by saying that when he first entered the workforce, his primary goal was to earn a yearly salary of $15,000 while working as a civil engineer.   Decades later, his sights are set on a much loftier achievement.   The chairman of Newmark Grubb Night Frank wants to bring a casino to his Meadowlands property in New Jersey and he spoke candidly on the process with Real Estate Weekly during the B’nai B’rith event.   “My bet was Atlantic City was going to fail,” said Gural while discussing his decision to buy the struggling track."   “I didn’t think it would fail as badly as it did, but my bet was it was going to fail because Atlantic City is so greedy they don’t want to see any competition in the North, even though they know that it’s ridiculous (to have) all of your casinos in one town.”   “They have a lot of political power,” said Gural.   “But what we’re proposing is to pay a much higher tax rate and to use the money to help Atlantic City."   "Even with that proposal they’re against it. But had they been successful, I think it would have been almost impossible to get a casino in the North.”   That roulette wheel is still spinning for Gural, who is hopeful that the state will decide soon whether or not it will allow casino activity outside of the faltering shore town.   The issue may be voted on this fall, but even that is not yet certain.   “It’s been a struggle,” said Gural, “but I suspect that we’re in the homestretch of whether they’re going to decide to put  on the ballot in November in Jersey a referendum that would allow gambling outside of Atlantic City.”   “Hopefully it will,” he continued. “And then, hopefully, I’ll be able to get that license. It’s really a crapshoot, but if I hit it, it will be a home run.”   Trotting around the bases may be the only thing that saves the struggling Meadowlands facility.   Gural admitted that his investment in the project has improved the location’s aesthetics, but not its bottom line.   “When we took over the old Meadowlands, it was a complete dump. Nobody went, it was empty and it’s really been hard to get the message out,” he said.   So Gural built a new $88 million stand for the race track.   “So we built this brand new grandstand which is absolutely gorgeous, everybody loves it and it’s definitely an artistic success, but we really struggle to get the word out that it’s a brand new grandstand."   “The governor (Chris Christie) hates horse racing and a couple of years ago he decided that he would close the Meadowlands, which would have basically destroyed harness racing,” Gural said while discussing his motivation to get involved with the project.   “The Meadowlands is the hub of harness racing."   At the very late, last minute, I made a deal with the state to take it over for like a dollar a year."   "But it was purely a gamble that Atlantic City would fail and that ultimately the state would have no choice but to put a casino at the Meadowlands."   “The only thing that really works there is the nightclub,” Gural continued before adding that a club brings with it other risks, such as underage drinking and drug use on the premises.   Dan Orlando - Reproduced courtesy of the Real Estate Weekly    

Racetrack magnate Jeff Gural hates dishonesty. Once you know that, it’s easy to understand why the man who spent more than $100 million to build a new grandstand at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey said he was “really angry” with Standardbred trainer Corey Johnson. Both horses Johnson raced in the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands in November of 2014 — including Traceur Hanover, the winner of the 2-year-old colt pace — later tested positive for cobalt. The lab in Hong Kong Gural personally employed to do the testing reported each horse had five times the threshold level of cobalt typically found in a horse’s system. Gural, 72, also was irked that the New Jersey Racing Commission had allowed Johnson to race in the Breeders Crown in the first place. The Ontario Racing Commission suspended the trainer on the Monday before the Crown finals after another horse he trained received a positive test for elevated total carbon dioxide (TC02) levels at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. “The guy embarrassed the sport,” said Gural, who maintains a sizeable list of trainers banned from racing at the Meadowlands as well as the two smaller harness tracks he also owns in upstate New York — Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Yet, Gural couldn’t bar Johnson’s Crown entries because the Breeders Crown is operated by the Hambletonian Society, which defers to the sport’s state and provincial regulators to determine a participant’s eligibility. The New Jersey Racing Commission allowed Johnson to race because the trainer had not had a hearing in Ontario prior to the Crown finals. After the cobalt positive, Gural not only banned Johnson from racing at his tracks, he also banned entries from Quebec-based owner Richard Berthiaume, the owner of both of Johnson’s Breeders Crown entries. “We’ve now made changes to our rules so that can never happen again,” Gural said, explaining the language in those rules is so broad that the track will now be able to reject entries for all stakes races at his tracks, even those operated by outside groups. The Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands in 2016. Gural is puzzled why people in horse racing call him a polarizing figure. To read the extensive full article written by Dave Briggs click here. Dave Briggs is the co-editor of Canadian Thoroughbred magazine and a freelance horse racing columnist and features writer. For 18 years, he was the editor of the harness racing trade publication The Canadian Sportsman.

Harness racing season begins two weeks from today at Vernon Downs. But once again, the track's fate — and that of its racino — hangs in the balance. Owner Jeff Gural, who also owns Tioga Downs, says a state decision could mean the end of both harness racing tracks. Harness racing season begins two weeks from today at Vernon Downs. But once again, the track’s fate — and that of its racino — hangs in the balance. Owner Jeff Gural warned that if Binghamton gets a casino, instead of his Tioga Downs, it could mean the end of both tracks. “I am committed to Vernon as long as things turn out OK with this new casino license,” Gural said. “It would be very difficult if somebody were to get a license in Binghamton. That would probably put Vernon and Tioga out of business.” To read the full article written by Elizabeth Cooper click here.  

Jeff Gural is perhaps the most criticized individual in harness racing. The head of the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon is equally deserving and undeserving of the public ire.  Most will agree that Gural swooped in at the eleventh hour and saved the Meadowlands from disaster, but those same people have grown tired of hearing about it over and over. They applauded him a few years back and have since washed their hands and want to move on. Is that fair to Gural considering his efforts? Therein lies one of the public disagreements between the industry and the often outspoken head honcho.  Having just completed another impromptu sit-down with Gural, I came away once again seeing that he is equal parts sugar and salt. Joining a crowded club, he is not a perfect man, but at least on the surface desires to see the sport prosper. By Derick Giwner for DRF.com. To view the rest of this story click here.

"Anybody who wants to say I'm vindictive, they're right. I'm really pissed.” That was Meadowlands' chairman Jeff Gural's answer when asked by harnessracing.com Friday about his response to the Hambletonian Society and Woodbine Entertainment Group's (WEG) decision to drop the rule for stallion restrictions. Gural lobbied both groups four years ago for the restrictions that kept star horses on the track after their 3-year-old campaigns. When learning earlier this week of the Hambletonian Society and WEG's decision to not extend what was a two-year trial period for foals of 2015 and 2016, Gural announced that he was going to expand the restrictions for any horse by a 4-year-old stallion to include all races at not only the Meadowlands but also Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, both of which he also owns, including stakes, baby races and qualifiers. "I'm very disappointed. That's why I've changed the rule now so basically you won't be able to race at any of my tracks,” explained Gural. "You're right, I'm being vindictive. I'm just tired of the fact that this place was 48 hours from being closed and I stepped up to the plate and I'm killing myself and losing money, that I have to listen to a bunch of breeders complain to me that I'm hurting them, when the reality is the breeding business is collapsing. They don't understand that if we don't find new people to buy these yearlings, there is no breeding business. I have no idea how to do it other than put a good product out there. "It's the guy who owns five percent of a stallion, who says, "If we could syndicate that horse I would take that money and buy yearlings with it.' It's the five-percent guy who is complaining. You can't make that up.” When asked what he believed the down-the-road impact would be with the new restrictions, Gural didn't hesitate to answer. "I have no idea and I don't really care,” he said. "Do I think someone can sell a yearling that can't race at my three tracks? No. I wouldn't buy a horse like that, why would you? You want to baby race that horse at the Meadowlands. The way I see it, if you want to race in New York or New Jersey, I own the only three tracks that aren't half-mile tracks.” For the full article go to harnessracing.com

MANALAPAN, NJ - January 23, 2015 - Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey President Tom Luchento and Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural met Friday, January 23, 2015 and agreed to withdraw the trainers' rewards program and suspend ABC classification racing at the Meadowlands. "We have always been willing to explore any strategy that would bring about the best possible racing at the Meadowlands," said Luchento. "Until we have slots revenue, which I feel is not far off, we have to be responsive and creative to whichever concepts will fill the entry box and provide the full, competitive fields that are the hallmark of the Meadowlands. Director of Racing Peter Koch will be issuing his condition sheets to reflect the return to condition racing. "We hope these changes are reflective of both the needs of the trainers and race office," Luchento added. "The SBOANJ and the Gural team are partners in making the Meadowlands a success and look forward to a return to the glory days of harness racing in East Rutherford." The trainers' rewards program was a preference system instituted in 2014 to provide preferences to trainers who supported the spring and summer racing programs. Carol Hodes for SBOANJ

East Rutherford, NJ (January 8th) - The Super Bowl, which marks the traditional start of the winter late closer program at The Meadowlands saw its first round contested at The Meadowlands on Thursday night. It featured four divisions, each worth $12,500. The first division featured an overwhelming favorite in the form of JL Cruze. Sent off as the 2/5, prohibitive choice, JL Cruze settled into third position behind a pair of longshots who set the tempo to the tune of a 28.1 first quarter and a 57 second half mile. It was at that point that John Campbell decided to make his move for the lead as he guided JL Cruze off the pylons and asked his gelding for speed. JL Cruze responded and quickly asserted command as he trotted past three-quarters in 1:27, before powering away through a 27.2 final quarter to complete the mile in a sharp 1:54.2, winning by five lengths on a bitterly cold evening at The Meadowlands. Mm's Roanie was second with Charleston Springs third. The winner is trained by Eric Ell for W Kenneth Wood, J. Dittmar Jr. and S J Iaquinta. The second division also featured a short-priced favorite, in fact Propulsion was sent off as the 1/9 choice and did not disappoint. The speed came in the form of longshot Always Quick Star who set the pace through fractions of 28 and 57.4, with Northern Secret riding the pocket trip. Propulsion situated himself second over through three-quarter of 1:26.3, while Jewels In Hock, who was leading the outer flow took the lead turning for home. As the field straightened up, Jewels In Hock broke on the lead and Propulsion inherited the lead and quickly pulled away to score in 1:54.4 for Tim Tetrick. Teach Me To Bucky was second and Northern Secret checked in third. Propulsion is trained by Tony Alagna for Brittany Farms, Katz, Libfeld, Sbrocco and Little E L.L.C. Jeff Gural made a trip to the winners circle after the second division of the Super Bowl as one of the co-owners of Propulsion, he returned quickly after the third division with Opulent Yankee. Sent off as the 2/5 favorite, Opulent Yankee was allowed to settle into third position as longshot Mass Appeal dictated the terms through an opening quarter of 28.2 and a half-mile of 57.2, before conceding the lead to pocket-pulling second choice Annapolis, who led the field around the far turn before being pounced on by a tracking Opulent Yankee, who loomed up and powered past Annapolis to draw clear and win impressively in 1:55, completing the final quarter in just 27.3. Annapolis held on to the runner-up spot with Windsun Cobra third. The final Super Bowl division was the most wide-open division on paper. Blocking The Way was sent off as the 2-1 favorite at post time and took no prisoners as he led every step of the way to score in 1:54.1. Allowed to settle on the lead early in the mile, Andy Miller established the early pace through fractions of 28.1, 56.2 and 1:25.3 without seeing much of a challenge. Bad I Am committed first over, but was only able to get up to Blocking The Way's wheel as the field turned for home. Dress For Success, who was tracking the cover of Bad I Am accelerated in the stretch and was charging late after the winner, but came up just a head short while finishing second. Bad I Am saved the show. Blocking the way is trained by Julie Miller for The Lindy Farms of Connecticut. The second round of the Super Bowl series will take place next Thursday, January 15th. Both Jackpot Super Hi-5 wagers went unclaimed with multiple tickets winning. The fifth race carryover now stands at $12,446, with the last race carryover at $31,182. Racing returns at The Meadowlands on Friday Night, featuring the first round of the Worldly Beauty series. Post time is 7:15 P.M. by Darin Zoccali, for the Meadowlands  

East Rutherford, NJ - As the time to select the Grand Circuit engagements for your harness racing stakes hopefuls draws near, The Meadowlands presents several exciting new stakes and joins with Tioga & Vernon Downs in ensuring no one goes home empty handed when racing in the open stakes administered by the three Gural tracks. The 2015 conditions will provide 1% of the total purse be paid to all out of the money horses with the balance then paid out to first through fifth in standard fashion.   A redesigned web page will provide easy access to the information on stakes at all three tracks. The nomination forms may be filled out online and have been designed to address each particular group for age and gait, hopefully making the process less complicated and reducing the paperwork load.   The new stakes are to a large degree in response to horsemen's concerns.   To address the issue of racing four-year-olds against older foes, the Graduate Series has been resurrected, offering $1 million in purses spread over three legs and a $250,000G final for both trotters and pacers. The series kicks off with a $50,000e leg at Tioga on Memorial Day, May 25, then shifts to The Meadowlands for leg two at $75,000e and leg three at $100,000 in June. The $250,000G finals will also be raced at The Meadowlands with the pace on Friday, July 3 and the trot on Saturday, July 11.   Also being added for 2015 is a TVG Championship Final for pacing and trotting mares with a $200,000G purse. The format will mirror that of the successful TVG Finals, with points accumulated over a series of top races for the mares at various tracks over the season.   "These stakes have been added to address what the horsemen tell us," said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. "It seemed in 2014 that as the season went along, the four-year-olds gained strength and by the end were more than holding their own with the older horses. The Graduate will provide races against their own age for the first half of the year. The mares have been a competitive group the last few years and now they have another big race.   "The conditions for the all Early Closing stakes at the three tracks have language that permits trainers no more than two (aside from horses they have trained since the start of their racing career) entries in the finals this year. Coupled with all the horses that reach the finals will realize some return on the investment in the stake (the 1% mentioned above) I'm hoping to encourage more people to take a chance on our races."   The Meadowlands has also agreed to host the $1.5 million Freshman Fall Final Four (payments for those will be handled by the Hambletonian Society) when reopening in November of 2015 and offer the inaugural edition of two new races for three-year-old fillies to support them. The "Continentalvictory" and "Tarport Hap" named for two of the greatest mares ever, will offer a purse of $175,000e on November 21.   New for older trotting mares in 2015 will be the $175,000e "Fresh Yankee" remembering the rags to riches queen of a few generations ago. This one will be raced on Hambletonian Day, August 8.   The headliners are back with the $800,000e Meadowlands Pace leading a stellar stakes card on Saturday, July 18 and the $1,000,000 Hambletonian bringing the curtain down of the 2015 Championship Meet with the "Greatest Day in Harness Racing" on Saturday, August 8.   All of these races have a nominating deadline of February 15, 2015.   Tioga and Vernon Downs will continue their $2 million slate of stakes that include the $1 million Empire Breeders Classics for NY Sired 3YO, the Crawford Farms, Artiscape, Muscle Hill, Miss Versatility and Roll With Joe for older horses.   The new wrinkle for the upcoming season is the change in the purse for the Final of the Kindergarten Trotting Classics. In 2015 the money in the pool for those Finals shall be divided with 75% directed to the Final and 25% to a consolation. This should, off the 2014 numbers, result in a Final of approximately $175,000 with a Consolation in the $75,000 neighborhood, giving a better earning opportunity to those not quite making the big dance.   All of the Tioga & Vernon Downs races have a March 15 close of nominations.   Any questions on the stakes should be directed to the Racing Office at 201-842-5130.   Nick Salvi

Yesterday’s announcement about the three winning bids for casino resorts in upper New York State has had positive and negative impacts on harness racing in the Empire State. The New York State Gaming Facility Location Board announced Wednesday the selection of the one winning bid for a casino in each of three defined regions of the State:  Catskills/Hudson Valley (Region One, Zone Two), Capital (Region Two, Zone Two) and Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes (Region Five, Zone Two). In the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region, The Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, N.Y. whose developer Empire Resorts operates through a subsidiary, the nearby Monticello Casino & Raceway, was selected over eight other applicants. What this means is that Monticello Raceway will hopefully be able to survive. The new resort will be built just a couple of miles away from the track and because the parent company is already running the racing, it should remain a viable attraction to compliment the resort. No word yet on whether the casino already at Monticello Raceway will remain open once the new resorts gets finished, which is now years away. In the Eastern Southern Tier/Finger Lakes Region, the Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, N.Y. was selected over the other two applicants in the region, Tioga Downs Casino, Racing & Entertainment in Nichols, N.Y. and Traditions Resort & Casino in Union, N.Y. This move will have major devastating effects at Vernon Downs according to owner Jeff Gural, who stated after the meeting, "they probably put Vernon Down out of business." Gural's casino bid for Tioga Downs in the Eastern Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region was not chosen and he suggested to the Capital New York that the future of Vernon Downs could be in trouble with a casino license being considered about 80 miles away at Lago Resort and Casino. “It will hurt me at Vernon. But, I don't give a sh*t about me, I’m wealthy,” Gural was quoted as saying in the Capital New York article. “But it certainly screwed the people who live in the Southern Tier. There are five casinos where Lago is and now there are no casinos in the Southern Tier. That's—that’s shocking! “I think the Southern Tier just got wiped out economically," he continued. "Poor people, they’re going to have no jobs. Take a ride around the Southern Tier and see what it looks like. It’s about as depressed an area as there is and when you had a chance to help these people, with the fracking and the casino, they give them a doubleheader. It’s just sickening. I feel bad for the people. Don’t worry about Jeff Gural, I’m fine.” To read Gural's comments in the Capital New York, click here. Along with The Montreign Resort Casino and Lago Resort & Casino, the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, NY from the Capital Region was the third entity that will be entitled to apply to the New York State Gaming Commission for a gaming facility license. To read the complete report, click here. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

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