11/24/2017 9:09AM

Bergman: Simon Allard’s in-race antics a deserved response

Lisa Photo
Driver Simon Allard celebrates as Springsteen crosses the wire in the Governor's Cup elimination.

Score one for the “Bad Guys”.

Watching Springsteen take a “Wrecking Ball” to the field as announcer Ken Warkentin suggested on Saturday night was only part of the drama that unfolded towards the end of the Governor’s Cup elimination at The Meadowlands. On the track driver Simon Allard, the driving brother of “banned in East Rutherford” Rene, seemed to gesture something to those who were watching him closely.

Allard’s bravado if you will, could be taken in any number of ways, but given the incredible hoopla that surrounded Springsteen’s appearance in the Cup and the direct finger pointing at his brother by Jeff Gural and those in power at The Meadowlands, it was hard to be surprised by the feedback.

Labels are what we make them in today’s age of intense scrutiny on social media and Mr. Gural has made no secret of those who he believes are the bad guys ruining the entire sport. That Rene Allard is high on the list is not new news, at the same time, why should we expect those in the Allard camp to not want to push back considering the leader of the anti-Allard movement sits atop the Meadowlands structure?

That Mr. Gural went public vowing to never allow the trainer switches to occur again (a trainer change from Allard to Mark Harder allowed Springsteen admittance into the Cup), seems to be missing the actual reason why they were permitted in the first place. That Mr. Gural admitted he did his partner Martin Scharf a favor when he permitted Agent Q to be switched into the Chris Ryder stable prior to the Mistletoe Shalee and away from his personally banned Aaron Lambert, indicated to all willing to see that if you are on the “Friends and Family” list the store was opened but others need not apply.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the unwelcomed guests at The Meadowlands this past Saturday might take offense at the overt persecution and the suggestion that Hong Kong labs are waiting anxiously to test the blood of Springsteen and the newly acquired Lady Shadow, and finally come back with the results the guilty until proven innocent crowd are awaiting.

That Agent Q managed to win the Mistletoe Shalee in August and no results have been released as yet some three months later to indicate there was anything foreign within her system, has not engendered any apology to the trainer of record prior to that race and after it. It has only helped fester an attitude that more must be done to separate the good guys from the bad until the final shocking results are revealed.

For those keeping score, I am not personally against Mr. Gural’s crusade to detect what has as yet been undetectable within the horses. He has a right and I guess a personal wish to expose the mystery drug that has allegedly benefited some at the expense of others.

What I am opposed to and will forever be is the idea that rules count for anything when the writer of said rules is the first to break them.

Finger pointing aside, it was The Meadowlands that instituted rules specifically designed to not allow owners to shift horses from one trainer to another in order to gain entry into stakes races at The Meadowlands.

This wasn’t the Hambletonian. This wasn’t the Breeders Crown that set the new standards.

Since Agent Q was owned in part by Martin Scharf, it shouldn’t have come down to a week before the Mistletoe Shalee for the question to be answered. Mr. Gural had in fact by his own rules given Mr. Scharf and the other partners notice, 30 days if you will, that they could move the horse out of Lambert’s stable and into that of a trainer, say Chris Ryder for argument, and avoid public scrutiny.

That would have been Mr. Scharf and Mr. Gural playing by the rules set forth.

In failing to follow such a path, Mr. Gural paved the way for the connections of Lady Shadow and Springsteen to find the door into the Meadowlands.

It shouldn’t have required any future public speech from the track.

If I were sitting in the camp of Rene Allard and his brother, who invested plenty of money in Springsteen, it would be hard not to take the public dissing personally. Allard’s horses along with every other participant in every stakes race should be tested the same exact way.

It was in fact that same Chris Ryder, the substitute trainer for Agent Q in August, that developed Springsteen and for wont of a better word didn’t abuse the horse while racing him against Grand Circuit company. Ryder purchased the colt for just $18,000 but treated the horse as if he was worth a lot more from the very start. It is not a total surprise that Springsteen has looked as fit and powerful in November, first winning the Matron with an impressive backstretch sweep and then a rated Governor’s Cup elimination whereby he was in perfect position to sprint home off very slow fractions.

That Simon Allard is now considered the “Bad Guy” for his on-track actions is laughable. But try not to blame the driver for having enough within him to emotionally respond to the outpouring of hatred from near and far against his brother.

Springsteen was purchased and staked to the Governor’s Cup before Allard became the trainer. Allard’s purchase came with the obvious intent of racing in stakes races and taking advantage of the immediate opportunity to recover the purchase price and prosper. Those who invested in the Meadowlands some years ago and their partners did so with an eye on making money as well, perhaps not in the near term but the long term. The election of a new governor within New Jersey has increased their odds. Maybe now it is finally time to only speak of a future casino in New Jersey and veer away from topics that cast a negative light on the sport of harness racing.