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.