Monday, June 4, 2012

Harness Racing: George Brennan banned from Meadowlands track

George Brennan


Prominent harness racing driver George  Brennan has been banned from the  Meadowlands Racetrack due to a comment in  a recent newspaper article that was taken as  an endorsement of cheating by track  operator Jeff Gural. Brennan, 45, who won the prestigious  Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks races  at the Meadowlands Racetrack last summer,  confirmed Monday in a phone interview as  “100 percent true” a story on New Zealand- based industry website  citing the comments as a reason for the ban. In a New York Times article last week,  Brennan was supportive of Lou Pena, a  controversial trainer who last month was  suspended in New York state for allegedly  doping horses in almost 700 different races Since 2010. 

Meadowlands Racetrack
Pena and Brennan were the dominant trainer  and driver, respectively, at Yonkers Raceway  last year in Brennan’s first full season at that  track — with Brennan often driving Pena’s  horses. Brennan said of Pena, “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.” Gural said Monday, “I was very offended by  [Brennan’s] remarks about the Pena  suspension in the Times. It seemed he was  saying it is all right to cheat because the  object is to win and this is not my philosophy o r the impression I want my customers to  have. While I agree the rules are confusing  and should be uniform, there is no room for  Mr. Brennan’s views on this subject.” Meadowlands Racing Secretary Peter Koch  called Brennan after the article appeared,  according to Brennan, and informed him of  the ban. Brennan said in the Story that when he asked Koch to elaborate,  he was simply told, “I’m just the messenger.” Pena was banned in December from the  Meadowlands track by Gural, who in court  documents at the time referred to “no less  than 15 infractions” by various horse racing  boards alleging improper conduct by Pena. 

Jeff Gural
Gural, a real estate executive who first began  racing horses at the 36-year-old  Meadowlands track in its first year of  operation, took over the reins from the New  Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in  December. Improving the public perception of a sport  that has had its share of racing scandals over  the years has been cited as a priority by  Gural. Plans are under way to build a new, s maller grandstand at the site of the current  backstretch. Gural hopes that will help turn  the track back into a profitable business,  after the state lost millions annually there  due to the sport’s declining popularity.