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Monday, September 15, 2014

Revisiting the Gural Rule

Jay Bergman argues for the end of the rule which requires 4yo horses to return to the track in order for Father Patrick, the trotting Niatross, to head to the breeding shed after this season.  While the so-called 'Gural Rule' making the off-spring of four year old stallions ineligible to the major stakes is meant to get the sophomore stars to return for at least one more season is to be reviewed this year, Bergman indicates it is necessary to get Father Patrick in the breeding shed in order for him to continue the Cantab Hall line.

Make no mistake, the returning three year old stars for the most part have been disappointing on the track, perhaps not surprisingly as it takes time for horses to get acclimated to racing against the best (look at Sweet Lou).  My personal feeling is the Gural Rule needs to be modified, not scrapped as we need to get older horses to remain on the track.  My proposal would have the rule involve four and five year olds.  As Bergman mentioned, what fans and horsemen are are talking about are the veterans Sebastian K and Commander Crowe, not other horses.  This is not surprising since in the trotting ranks, the older horses have historically been the ones which do the best.

There is one problem with Bergman's idea to scrap the Gural Rule.  If the stars are allowed to retire after their sophomore campaign, you aren't going to get those older horses.  We can't expect Europe to send over their top horses annually; this year is a fluke.  We need to depend on our own domestic horses to become stars and they can't become stars if they are residing in the breeding shed.  Rather than scraping the rule, it needs to be modified and there needs to be more racing opportunities for the four and five year olds so it pays to keep them racing.

With regards to racing, I propose we redefine Junior Free for All (JFA) to represent the top four and five year olds racing, where FFAs would be for the top horses regardless of age.  Overnight  and stake races can be created for the JFA so there are racing opportunities for them.  If we can not provide sufficient racing opportunities to make it financially attractive for these horses to race as four and five year olds, then the rule needs to be scrapped.

At the same time, we need is to encourage horses to breed and race, not do one or the other.  For example, at the end of this season, Sebsastian K will be heading for the breeding shed prior to returning for his nine year old campaign.  Why not allow the four and five year olds to breed and race at the same time without penalty?  This way, syndicates can recover part of their investment by racing and breeding, as we keep the stars racing at the same time.

The first argument regarding the current and future (if adopted) rule is owners should be able to do what they want with their horses.  Normally I would agree, but these horses have been purchased knowing the Gural Rule is in effect so they are aware of the 'restrictions' prior to purchasing.  

Some would argue having these horses race past their three year old careers put their value at risk.   Perhaps it is true, especially when you look at this year's class of four year olds but maybe the problem is not the fact the horses are still racing, but these horses may have been precocious when racing against their own age, but quite ordinary when racing against unrestricted company.  However, being necessary to race as five year olds, they will have the opportunity to show it was just a case of having to catch up to the older horses ala Sweet Lou.

Captaintreacherous will not be appearing at Delaware this year after all.  Earlier plans had the Captain racing in the Winbak Pace but it is clear something is not right with the Captain and that is confirmed with news that trainer Tony Alagna is still running blood tests in an effort to see what is wrong with the champion horse. When dealing with horses, sometimes the best laid plans will go awry.

Jug 2014 is not in the books but you can win a VIP experience to 2015's LBJ courtesy of Jug sponsor Fazoli's by entering Pick the Jug Winner .  The contest involves picking the ultimate Jug winner as well as earning the most money based on your fictional selections in race 9-18.

While there was no thoroughbred racing this year, the 2015 standardbred meet begins this Wednesday at Colonial Downs for a stand which ends on October 26.  With the meet starting on Jugette Day, one must wonder why the New Kent, Virginia track is not offering a promotion cross-tying the fist two days with the Delaware County Fair, such as alternating races and promoting the Jugette and Jug.

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