Meadowlands chairman Jeff Gural issued a statement Friday afternoon regarding his actions to bar driver Brian Sears from driving in overnights, qualifiers and baby races at that racetrack. The statement comes after Sears issued his own on Thursday, expressing his disappointment. Sears tried to drive in the qualifiers Friday morning at the Meadowlands, but he was rebuffed in that effort.
Here is Gural's statement: "I like to think that all that know me in our industry recognize that I have been a tireless advocate for the highest in professional standards and best practices for our professionals and for the horses they drive. I ask that all those….drivers, trainers, owners….who join me in this sport that we love, abide by these standards.
"Mr. Sears and I have our differences over the standards that we choose to apply at the Meadowlands and whether or not he should have been loyal to the Meadowlands rather than move to Yonkers. Back in May, after Andy Miller was injured and David Miller received a concussion, I called Brian and asked if under the circumstances with two drivers out would he come back and drive on the weekends to fill in the void. He said no, which is his right.
"With the beginning of the two-year-old baby races and with our major stakes coming up in July I thought it best that Brian not drive in these qualifiers given his decision not to help out in those circumstances. Candidly, I was quite disappointed when he refused to help out when Andy and David went down with injuries.
"Brian then called me and once again I asked him to come back for at least the last six weeks of the meet and, as I knew he would be driving on Saturdays with all the other leading drivers at either Mohawk or Pocono. I did not think asking him to drive a couple of Fridays was such a big deal since obviously in July he would be driving on Saturdays at the Meadowlands anyway. Brian made some comments to me that I thought differed from my standards as to how to conduct a race meet. In the end he agreed to come over and drive for the last six weeks of the meet. We asked Brian if it would be okay to let people know that he was coming back so he would get as many drives as possible. He told us that he preferred we did not do that as he would get the word out to the trainers on his own.
"I thought that was the end of it and looked forward to having him back since he is such a talented driver. Brian drove in some qualifiers and on Monday, when we opened the box, I saw that he was only down on one horse. I immediately called Jason (Settlemoir) and told him to tell the judges to try to get Brian as many mounts as possible so he would not complain. Jason called me the next morning and told me that he saw that Brian was down to drive at Yonkers on Friday and when he called Brian he told Jason that since he did not get any work it did not make sense for him to come to the Meadowlands.
"I was very disappointed but it soon occurred to me that Brian and I had a major difference over the standards that we choose to apply at the Meadowlands, and it would not be in the best interest of the Meadowlands to allow him to race. I knew I would get heat from many of the owners who use Brian on their stakes horses but I thought I would deal with that separately and probably let him drive as I did not want to hurt any of the owners who spend their money buying yearlings or raising them at their farms.
"The truth is I actually like Brian although I have been extremely disappointed that he chose to abandon the Meadowlands and especially that he would not do me the small favor when Andy and David went down. I remember last year when he won the Hambletonian, I gave him a big hug and congratulated him because he is a great driver.
"Brian called me yesterday but I did not have a chance to return the call as I am on vacation in Colorado celebrating my 50th college reunion with old friends. Hopefully we can speak next week when I get back and resolve the matter as I was just trying to get his attention and not to start World War III in the industry."