Harness horse racing tracks join anti-doping movement

Jeff Gural
Jeff Gural

Three leading US standardbred racetracks owned by Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) Supporting Member Jeff Gural have joined as members to the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity.

Gural, who owns the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and the New York tracks Tioga Downs in Nichols, and Vernon Downs in Vernon, is the first Standardbred track owner to join efforts spearheaded by the Thoroughbred industry.

The WHOA is a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing.

The newest members add to the growing support for federal legislation to appoint the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to create and oversee a national program for horse racing in the United States.

Gural, known for “walking the walk and talking the talk” when it comes to banning drug use at his tracks, said his three tracks are all known for having the highest testing standards possible.

“We currently do our own out of competition testing and surveillance at our expense. We have utilized the Hong Kong Jockey Club Laboratories as well as others, and despite the current efforts of the states we have been able to detect illegal performance enhancing medication in horses entered at our facilities,” Gural said.

“We believe that national oversight is the only way to ensure that everyone is playing fairly and that our animals are not subject to potentially harmful medications. Our tracks are proud to join the Coalition and we hope that our participation will help broaden these positive reforms to encompass standardbred horseracing.  The implementation of uniform policies throughout the U.S. and an industry-based, non-governmental solution will only help us grow the popularity and credibility of the sport and ultimately establish a level playing field across the board.”

He said the bill H.R. 3084, The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act (THIA) presented an opportunity for the industry to to come together for the betterment of racing and the protection of its horses.

“I’m optimistic that we can work together with all parties in an effort that can be supported by everyone who cares about this issue,” Gural said.

Racing at the Meadowlands track in New Jersey.
Racing at the Meadowlands track in New Jersey.

The bill, introduced in July 2015 to the House of Representatives by Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), will direct the non-governmental, non-profit US Anti-Doping Agency to create an independent, racing-specific, non-governmental and non-profit organization to work collaboratively with state racing commissions and their respective staff members throughout the country.

WHOA Supporting Member Staci Hancock described Jeff Gural as “a true leader”.

“He has demonstrated fierce determination with efforts to abolish the use of performance enhancing drugs at his tracks. All horseracing would be better off if it followed his lead and example,” Hancock said.

Gural is the CEO of American Racing and Entertainment, LLC and chairman of commercial real estate firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. He is a longtime proponent of medication reform and enhanced drug testing in American horseracing. He has been a Supporting Member of WHOA since March of 2014.

The Coalition – whose membership also includes the Water Hay Oats Alliance, the Breeders’ Cup Ltd., the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Veterinary Medicine Association, The Jockey Club, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders – supports the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015.

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