Jeff Gural made news again today. Over the past couple of years, the practice of "kicking" or whatever apologists want to call it, has been in the headlines. Many of the alphabets, on air talent, or insiders were either frozen regarding what to do about it, defending it, or were just hoping it would go away. After driver David Miller's interview with harnesslink.com, where he brazenly stuck his finger in the face of the rules by saying, "“I realize that people are really down on this idea of kicking” but it was worth every bit of the $750 fine", once again, Gural didn't run and hide from it.
It was announced today that Gural's three tracks have created a zero tolerance policy on kicking.
- “We have a responsibility to our horses and to the public that we are putting forth the most integrity-driven and safest product possible,” said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. “Regardless of the debate that has been ongoing related to this issue, as far as we are concerned, perception is reality and it looks terrible, therefore we will not tolerate it. I hope our having to take action on this issue will not be required to demonstrate how serious we are about this subject.”
That did not happen by accident. Several years ago the sport lamented the loss of the sports' stars at three, but threw up their hands because there was nothing they could do about it. Gural, through his stakes, along with the Hambletonian Society and Woodbine, backed the venture that three year olds can be retired yes, but their foals would not be eligible for a handful of big money stakes. The world changed.
The bottom line is clear: Jeff Gural is as close to a commissioner that harness racing has ever seen. Those who are against him - and there are many - can either fall into line behind him, or step up to plate and lead themselves. Thus far, those choosing the latter are few and far between.