06/04/2012 1:25PM

Driver George Brennan banned from Jeff Gural tracks


When I read the news this Monday morning that driver George Brennan would no longer be allowed to race at the Meadowlands, I was beside myself. Did he commit a crime? No! He simply spoke his mind.

The ban was said to be the result of comments Brennan made in a NY Times story about the suspension of trainer Lou Pena on 1,719 illegal incidents of administering legal medications too close to race time.

Brennan, one of the top drivers in the country, had this to say in the story:

"I just know his horses look really good, and they race for a long time," Brennan said. "They're throwing this guy to the wolves when the primary objective in this game is to win races. Obviously, someone is out to get him."

Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural admitted to making the decision.

“He can race this weekend at Tioga and Vernon because I don’t want to penalize the owners that were expecting him to drive,” said Gural, who operates all three tracks. “If he shows up I’ll try to meet with him.”

Gural said he considers Brennan to be a friend but was taken aback by Brennan’s comments which he felt championed a win at all costs attitude.

“That’s how I see it. Perception is important,” said Gural, who agreed that perhaps he could have spoken with Brennan first (Race Secretary Peter Koch was the ax-man). “I took it as George was saying that winning was the only thing that mattered and that George was okay with what occurred,” said Gural. “If that is not the way he felt, he should have worded it differently.

“I’m running a business where 100 percent of my revenues come from racing,” said Gural, who feels a responsibility to police his tracks.

Gural has a history of taking swift action when he feels horsemen are not playing by the rules. He went to court and incurred $65,000 in legal fees to ban Pena from competing at the Meadowlands. Pena wasn’t the only conditioner asked to leave and Gural took exception to the accusation that trainers were handpicked for exclusion.

“We went through every trainer one by one and looked into each case closely,” said Gural. “There were some guys who were on the bubble and we told them that if they got one more positive test, they were gone for good.

“I’m trying, even though sometimes I feel it is me against the world,” said Gural.

No one will accuse Gural of not caring. He admits to watching every race and stays on top of every on-track situation that develops. He has questioned trainers when their horses performed poorly and minded his P’s and Q’s to ensure that the trainers still racing at the Meadowlands are actually training the horses they enter and not just “paper trainers.”

All that said, forbidding Brennan, who ranks fourth on the earning leaderboard in 2012, from competing at his three tracks is a hasty decision. In this case, Brennan’s only crime was speaking his mind, and he was saying the same things that most horsemen were thinking.

I’m sure driver John Campbell would not have been banned for making the same comments, but then again, he never would have said them. Perhaps Brennan could have chosen his words differently, but the punishment must fit the crime, so to speak.


Roger More than 1 year ago
Thanks for MR.Gural, Trying to clean up Vernon Downs, one certain trainer has horses in detention barn every start
ART VANDALAY More than 1 year ago
the big m IS failing.has been for years.look at the drivers and purses at chester and yonkers.the big m cannot support a 5 night week any longer.the fact is the casinos are propping up what is left of racing.fact.true fans are sick of all the breakdowns and an after most horses names... that blank space should be L
Warren Sabo More than 1 year ago
this clown (Gural) can openly voice his opinions but no one else can. top trainers have have top horses that command top drivers. the money he spent to discredit Pena is bubble gum money to him. what happened to the state controlled horse racing industry and the betters knowing they will get a fair shake with a top trainer? if conditioners with big money backing can't win races with their horses let them go elsewhere.
Carl Hiel More than 1 year ago
so where was the starting point to try and raise the standards and ethics who should have been chosen ?
nancy gallagher More than 1 year ago
Jeff Gural is a hypocrite of the highest order. George Brennan is trying to make a living and you have to race at Yonkers, not the Meadowlands. He speaks his mind and is persecuted by Gural. Again, a phony of the highest order. He shouldn't have a major payday at the end of the day at the expense of hard working horsemen.
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Nancy, it's people like you who have made me a FORMER HORSE PLAYER
Warren Sabo More than 1 year ago
Ken, learn how to play before you complain and you may not have lost.
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Warren, I invite you to post your plays anytime here and show me and the rest of the world how to beat a 20% takeout, with suspicious trainiers from the left coast and robotic wagering where all underlays are bet on in the last minute. Put your money where your mouth is . . .
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
OK, and where has all the handle gone? If I bet on a horse that has 50% of the win money, what odds does the track offer? 3-5. 3-5 on a coin flip! If you bet $100 and win your bet, here's your return: Blackjack $95, Sports Betting $91, Slot Machine $80-90, Online Poker $92, Horse Racing $60 NO THANKS
Jay More than 1 year ago
I don't buy into Gural as some savior. The Meadowlands is dying a slow death losing quality owners, trainers and drivers to tracks with bigger purses and schedules. Brennan was an early defector. I read this as telling him back door that he can't ride in the the Pace or Hambletonian unlesss he makes nice and rides at the meadowlands regularly instead of Yonkers. Next move will be to pull the same move with Sears and Tetrick, both of whom were at Yonkers last Saturday night. This is a desparation move by a desparate guy. Who gets for speaking his mind in any sport? Bush . . .
Carl Hiel More than 1 year ago
gural seems to be giving it a 100 percent to increase the handle with promos better customer service tryin to keep out the cheats .i applaud him . he doesnt have slot infused purses so he is tryin all he can brennan spoke his mind no one stopped him as the owner and operator of the m1 ,tioga and vernon its his right to choose who he lets work there
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
Jay, Brennan, Pena are bums that have wrecked your sport. Yeah, Yonkers does well, thanks to SLOT MACHINES, not harness horses. Get your head out of the sand.
Jerry More than 1 year ago
brennan knew he was driving doped up horses. what a bum!
Michael Infurna More than 1 year ago
Good for Mr Gural. Everyone needs to be on the same page and he wants a clean track with zero tolerance for cheating. Keep up the good work!!
Rob Ardell More than 1 year ago
Oh lets applaud Jeff Gural and absolutely bash Lou Pena. Gural nor Pena are the real problem, IT'S THE OWNERS. Every one of these guys want an edge and they use guys like Pena to do so. For every Lou Pena getting banned there are 5 more ready to fill his shoes and post that 30% win percentage. When owners finally stop using guys like Pena the game will improve. This is negative press for Harness Racing and actually detracts from the game and if Gural is willing to keep banning these guys than your gonna see no more Meadowlands. The Horsemen will boycott the Meadowlands and take there horses elsewhere.
Carl Hiel More than 1 year ago
.so there gonna stop the meadowlands pace hambletonian and all the other major stakes because george brennan is banned ..all the other drivers will refuse really.he had to start somewhere why not pena i? where there is smoke there is fire just sayin
Wray Border More than 1 year ago
you cannot keep robbing the bank everyday and expect not to get caught and serve your sentence given . what about the better who helps keep track going.
WRAY More than 1 year ago
trying to rob the bank once should be a deter , but going in everyday to rob it you must catch the robber and give him his just dues