Day At The Track

So Who and What is GSY?

12:22 AM 04 May 2016 NZST
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In this undated photo, members of GSY after a Billings race at Alex's, across from Batavia Downs before heading to the next day's race at Vernon Downs. Friends after the race, fierce competitors on the track. From L-R, Tony Ciuffetelli, Matt Zuccarello,
Waiting in the paddock are the 'Three Daves'; from L-R, Dave Offenberg, Dave Yarock, David Glasser.

If you have been following the Meadowlands over the past few years, you have seen amateur races that were titled as GSY Amateur events. Ever wonder what GSY stands for, who they are, and why they race? VFTRG had the opportunity to talk to two officers of the GSY Amateur Driving Club, David Glasser and David Yarock, to get some answers.

The GSY Amateur Series is named after Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir, and David Yarock who are the club founders. The series was established four years ago in an effort to add additional races to the C.K.G Billings Amateur Driving Series.

Originally, the series was centered around Tioga Downs but included several other tracks. Today though, the series is focused on the Meadowlands even though on occasion they will compete at other area tracks; tracks such as Tioga Downs, Pocono Downs, Monticello Raceway, Harrah's Philadelphia, and Freehold here they are the featured amateur race on Open Space Day.. At this point, GSY's goal is to support the Meadowlands and provide competitive races for amateurs at the most recognized track in the United States.

Members of GSY belong to other clubs as they look forward to racing as much as possible. In addition to GSY, many are members of the Freehold Amateur Driving Club as well as NAADA (which races primarily at Monticello, Yonkers, and Freehold) in addition to being members of the CKG Billings series which races nationwide.

The beauty of amateur club racing is it give horse owners and others the opportunity to leave their desk job on a Friday afternoon and head to a track's locker room full of professional drivers, including members of the Hall of Fame and they compete on the same racetrack.

As to the question of the ability of amateur drivers, there is a misconception as to their ability since 90% of amateurs hold a full license and are able to compete against professionals in regular races. Glasser pointed out he learned to drive in the 1980's when there were no amateur races, others have followed the same path.

Bob Krivlen to name one continues to race against professional drivers with some success, while drivers like Glasser, such as Dein Spriggs, Roy Marohn, Bob Davis, and others who cut their teeth before amateur races were regularly contested raced with regular drivers successfully.

One may think professional drivers resent the fact these amateur races are on the race card but you would be wrong as many of the pros are supportive of the amateurs. Just recently GSY and the amateur club at Pompano Park held a Pro-Am at Pompano Park which Dave Miller and Tim Tetrick participated in. A Pro-Am may be held at the Meadowlands in the fall and some pros have already indicated an interest in participating if one is added to the schedule.

With amateurs racing weekly, how do they get the horses to race? Some drivers provide their own horses but other horses are provided by trainers. To help pay the expenses for these horses, the purse structure has been modified so every horse earns at least 3% of the purse if they finish out of the money.

The club works with the racing secretary in determining the class of horses which should compete in this series and this year they are racing horses which would fill non-winners of $3,500 in their last five starts with $10,000 claimers also eligible to race in the 'B' series while those who are non-winners of $6,000 in their last five starts with $15,000 claimers racing in the 'A' races which is the same class which will compete on the Billings circuit. They primary key is to have competitive races so all the horses have a chance to earn money as this is an expensive 'hobby'.

As you know, amateurs don't accept compensation for driving in these races. So where does the GSY driver commissions go to? Back in 2009,

David Yarock started a scholarship fund in memory of his father and step-father to give scholarships to students seeking to pursue equine and harness racing studies as well as providing scholarships to those in the harness racing industry and their families seeking to pursue higher education.

Since inception, over $150,000 has been distributed in scholarships. In addition to the driver commissions, annual club dues are also contributed to the fund. The club seeks racing opportunities to raise funds; the previously mentioned potential Meadowlands Pro-Am will raise additional funds for scholarships. Further information on the scholarship fund is available here.

The club makes no secret of the fact they work in partnership with the Meadowlands. They supply races when the Meadowlands needs them. While the drivers enjoy racing for the sake of racing, they also aim to help the Meadowlands survive. With the slots-infused tracks drawing horses away from the Meadowlands,

GSY helps fill races to complete the racing card. When GSY races at other tracks, it is either because they wish to support amateur racing and/or have races they need filled.

From the amount of money being wagered, it appears the punters are pleased with the amateur races being carded on the wagering program. Glasser feels in some ways having races with amateur drivers is a plus because "anything can happen". He further feels some of today's gamblers want more random possibilities than the predictable outcomes one sees at many racetracks, citing the popularity of slot machines.

The GSY races have growing pools and less predictable outcomes. Make no mistake, while fans don't want amateurs to take over an entire card (something done at Monticello Raceway sometime around 2013), they do like the fact amateur racing adds something to a few races on the wagering card. Of course, racing every week, handicappers have the opportunity to get used to the drivers and their abilities. When asked if GSY races could be added to Saturday night programs, it was made clear they are satisfied with the ability to race on Fridays.

Dave Yarock always felt amateur racing could have a significant positive effect for the sport and is thoroughly delighted the betting public has embraced GSY races. With all the negative publicity the sport gets, the industry can be proud of the positive feedback coming out of the amateur driver movement; it is truly a growth area in an otherwise stagnant industry

Of course, the appreciation goes two ways. The members of GSY appreciate the gamblers support because their wagering is what allows them to continue to race at the Meadowlands.

Asked a hypothetical question if they would consider expanding to racing under saddle should pari-mutuels be approved for the sport, Glasser said it would be interesting to consider but they would have to gauge the interest of track officials and their members to see if there would be any interest in pursuing it. Of course, there are a lot of things which would have to happen before it would be an issue they would need to visit.

by Allan Schott, for View From The Grandstand 

Check out View From the Racetrack Grandstand.



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