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Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Gural Law is Coming?

Sometimes it seems people connected to the standardbred industry are determined to destroy the sport from within.

We all have heard of the Gural rule, is it time to get ready for the Gural Law?.  According to Harness Racing Update, New York State Assemblyman Pretlow is proposing a law which would give any horseman banned by a track the right to have a hearing in front of the NYGC which will then have the ability to lift any ban by the track operator.  Call me cynical, but I can't help but think the Assemblyman's statement was written with Jeff Gural in mind and someone besides the Assemblyman wrote the statement and bill.  After all, the tone of the statement reminds me of some press releases we have seen in the past.

I may be wrong but it seem to me this bill was submitted at the behest of horsemen through their association(s).  While I have a problem with the bill because it takes away the private property rights of track owners in favor of horsemen, if it is necessary to modify the private property rights of track management, I would like to propose a compromise which protects the interests of all involved.

Under my proposal, prior to each meet, track management would publish a list of 'offenses' which would be grounds for exclusion.  If a person is excluded, they would be afforded a hearing but as long as the track operator can document the person did violate one of the conditions the track has designated as an exclusionary offense, the commission must uphold the exclusion (the burden on the horsemen to show why the exclusion should be lifted), provided it is shown exclusions under this offense are being handled consistently.  If excluded for another reason, the commission will uphold the exclusion only if it could be shown it was not retaliatory (the burden on the track to show why the exclusion should be upheld),.  This would protect the track operator's private property rights but protect horsemen from arbitrary banishment.  Being the track operator is being forced to give a reason where in the past no reason needed to be disclosed, the track operator should be immune from civil liability for having to reveal their reasons for exclusion as long as they abide by any commission decision.

The current proposed bill would undermine the ability of track operators to ensure they are providing the best racing product integrity-wise.  While I agree horsemen shouldn't be banished because a track operator just feels like it, they must be able to exclude people they feel are jeopardizing their business by their actions.  Hence should any bill be proposed, it must protect everyone's interests.

Of course, the proper forum for addressing this issue is not in the legislature but at the negotiating table when the horsemen are negotiating their next contract with management.

Being this bill was no doubt written with input from some horseman group(s), one can say "We have met the enemy and it is us".  It seems some people are determined to frustrate anything Jeff Gural is attempting to do even at his own tracks.  I suggest if people don't like the way he runs his tracks they race elsewhere or better yet, put their money where their mouth is and open their own track and run it the way they want.

It seems harness racing is finally starting to look a little like thoroughbred racing with regards to North American and European horses racing on each other's shores.  Maven, Creatine, Nuncio, are the more prominent American horses now racing campaigns in Europe.  We have Sebastian K who moved to the States to race and he will be joined by two other Europeans, Elittlopp winner Magic Tonight and stablemate D'One, who plan to race in North America from August through the Breeders Crown.

There is no reason why the best of each continent shouldn't do battle across the pond, the purse money is there.  Hopefully, this is a precursor to a widespread distribution of international signals for wagering purposes.  Regardless of where wagers are made, profitability is going to come from volume of wagers, so the more wagering opportunities fans have the better it will be for the tracks.

We would be remiss if we didn't offer our congratulations to thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown Champion, American Pharoah after his strong win in the Belmont Stakes.  Although off a little bit slow, Pharoah went to the front and controlled the pace.  In the stretch he opened up, winning the race by 5 1/2 lengths.

Some people claim American Pharoah went up against an inferior crop and that may be the case but even if true, you can't fault the horse for who showed up to the dance. Inferior crop or not, the horse won the 1 1/2 mile race in 2:26 3/5, the sixth fastest Belmont Stakes ever, the record holder being Secretariat.

Instead of heading off to the farm, plans are for him to continue racing this year before heading off to the breeding shed.  Could you imagine what it would do for racing if there was a 'Gural' rule in thoroughbred racing and American Pharoah returned to race at four?  Racetracks would be mobbed whenever he raced.  Alas, fans of the runners need to be happy to know this champion will be racing the rest of the year.

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