UPDATE: Scratch Of Breeders Crown Horses Denied By NJ Racing Commission

by | 10.25.2016 | 5:32pm
Jeff Gural

UPDATE: According to a report at Harnessracing.com, the New Jersey Racing Commission notified the Meadowlands late Tuesday afternoon that the track “does not have the legal authority” to scratch the two horses trained by Chris Oakes from the Breeders' Crown.

Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the New Jersey Racing Commission, advised the Meadowlands via email that the “Commission does not have the legal authority to scratch a horse(s) already entered based on conditions imposed solely on one trainer by a racetrack operator. Therefore, your request to have these horses scratched must be denied.”

The Meadowlands Racetrack has sent a formal request to the New Jersey Racing Commission asking to have both Breeders Crown horses trained by Chris Oakes to be scratched from this weekend's Finals for failing to cooperate with an agreed-upon surveillance and out-of-competition testing program.

The two Oakes horses are Luck Be Withyou, owned by John H. Craig, and Split The House, owned by Crawford Farms Racing. Both were entered in the $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace.

“Mr. Oakes had originally agreed to relocate his horses to White Birch Farm in New Jersey,” explained Meadowlands Chairman Jeffrey Gural. “The horses did not arrive by the Sunday deadline. I then compromised and gave them until Monday and then Tuesday. I even offered to allow the horses to continue to be stabled and trained at Mr. Oakes's farm in Pennsylvania provided I could have 24-hour surveillance on the horses at my own expense. Mr. Oakes and his lawyer Howard Taylor have refused to respond to these requests.”

A copy of the email request sent to the New Jersey Racing Commission is below:

“Trainer Chris Oakes has refused to relocate his two Breeders Crown horses (“Split The House” and “Luck Be Withyou” both aged pace Breeders Crown entrants) entered at the Meadowlands to a training facility and or farm here in New Jersey. We also offered Mr. Oakes a compromise where as we would allow him to continue to train his two horses at his farm in Pennsylvania but under 24 hour surveillance paid for by us. Mr. Oakes at this time has continued to refuse as we have not heard from him and or his attorney Howard Taylor. The New Meadowlands Racetrack under the direction of our Chairman Jeffrey R. Gural is hereby requesting that both Mr. Oakes horses be scratched from the aged Breeder Crown finals this Friday, October 28th. Again, the two horses are Split the House and Luck Be Withyou.”


  • theosmachine

    Cheaters be warned!

  • Steve

    I hope Jeff Gural prevails in this quest to clean up the sport

  • mullenhap

    Mr. Gural is right. If they have nothing to hide they should agree to his conditions. If I was the owner I would be livid. Interesting to see if the trainer will retain these horses.

  • Richard C

    The assistant trainers are Ben Johnson and Barry Bonds.

  • Condor

    Oakes will win this just like allard did a few years back. Sharp lawyers win the day unfortunatly

  • tom scott

    They should get scratched put doubt they will.

  • Eric

    The story is right, but the headline is wrong. The horses are not scratched. The NJRC says that they do not have the authority to honor the scratch request.
    One of the owners is also the title sponsor of the track’s signature race, which makes the situation even more interesting.

  • ben

    If the co operation is set in good language, then Mr Gural wins that, without any doubt.

  • Teflon Don

    Howard Taylor and others lawyers like him are the enemy of fair clean racing. Lance Armstrong would still be racing if the likes of Howard Taylor had there way.

    • SPA

      Taylor loves to shoot his mouth off in the grandstand. I was at Yonkers last year for the final of the Rooney and he had an entry in the race, the 1 he owned 100% of and the 1A he was 50/50 partners with a nice couple from NJ. They hit the wire together and he says out loud, knowing the couple he’s partners with are standing right there, and proclaims “It doesn’t matter to me I win either way, oh wait it does matter, why should I give up half the winners share.”

      • Robert Boni

        You could not be more wrong…Mr. Taylor did not own 100% of either horse.

        • Steve Gibson

          Taylor is a dirt bag.

  • Todger

    Johnsons couldnt be barred a few years ago either with there cobalt wings! Cheats

  • SPA

    Why are they picking on Chris Oakes?? It’s not like he improves horses 4 seconds or has them run off the screen when he gets them….oh wait, that is what happens.

    • So you are suggesting that The Meadowlands is not on the up and up?

      • SPA

        No, the exact opposite. I was being sarcastic as it’s a well known fact that horses who leave very competent horseman run off the screen and drop 4 seconds in their first start for Oakes.

        I applaud Gural for these efforts.

        • Eric

          To your point, Oakes is winning at a 35% rate at Pocono, 33% at Philly, 33% at Pompano… and he is 1 for 14 in the races he has been allowed to enter at the Meadowlands. Hmmm.

  • Jeff Gural is the single most impressive and dedicated individual dedicated to cleaning up racing regardless of breed in the United States. He has my complete admiration and support. Where are his counterparts in Thoroughbred racing?

    • SPA

      The only problem Gural has is that in the past he has not enforced these bans on the trainers of his own horses, Julie Miller, Bob Bongiorno and Ron Burke all had glaucine positives swept under the rug.

      • Can ANYBODY prove that?

        • SPA

          I posted some links about the positives but they were not approved. You can research the glaucine positives online.

    • Charles Smith

      Sadly, Jeff Gural has no equal in the Thoroughbred game when it comes to fighting for integrity in racing.

    • Buckpasser

      Gural also has hired former under cover cops to watch for horse vans stopping at rest stops and giving drugs before they get to the track. The Wall Street Journal awhile back ran a story on this and how several cheaters have been caught. For instance at one rest stop they found a bag with needles in it that had just been thrown out by someone on the horse van.

    • AtTheRacesNoisemaker

      The problem is the legal system. Get rid of left leaning judges. Vote Trump

  • Will Styles

    You liberals posting here sure do make me laugh. Horses are people’s property. Not your property or the governments property. No need for out of competition testing. If the horses run clean and pass both urine and blood after the race enough said. Do you really want the federal government and more rules then we already have now? They will destroy our sport further like they did our healthcare and banking industry Wake up people. Enforce the rules you have instead of creating new ones.

    • Will, you are either naive or trying to be clever. Unless what one knows what it is testing for and a test has been developed, it will not find a designer or unknown drug. Also, depending on the dose and timing, EPO cannot be detected in most cases. So to say that testing is reliable is simply wrong. ONLY by out of competition testing can racing authorities hope to catch the vast majority of cheaters. The government is set up to police racing in effort to make it clean. You right wingers crack me up. You love law and order and government when it suits your agenda, but complain about government when their rules get in the way of you running your scams. Nobody that wants a level playing field should object to out of competition testing.

      • Will Styles

        You miss the point, horses are property. Owners pay the bills not the track or the racing commissions. You constantly complain about drugs in our game., how about buying better horses. How about looking at all the horses winning that aren’t on any drugs Mongolian Saturday. Enibish wouldn’t know how to cheat if he tried. There are over 25 medicines that don’t test Full MGF, IGF to name a few, plus lots of herbal supplements. Most medicine I know given to horses is after the race to help them to recover and bounce back from a tough race. It’s human nature to outsmart your competition and to win. It’s why people own and race horses and it’s why people look for and edge. The federal government involved in our sport is a terrible idea, everything they touch in private business they destroy. How about cleaning up the racing secretary’s in this country?

        • You are hopeless and not worth responding to because it would be too time consuming, but I will tell you that people looking for an illegal edge have no place in Thoroughbred racing. If you cannot understand that concept you don’t understand the basic reason that people breed and race Thoroughbreds. Perhaps you should educate yourself.

          • Will Styles

            My education in our business is called street smarts and it came walking the barns at several tracks hustling book. Talking to riders and the best vets and picking their brains. I payed close attention to everyone’s operation inside and out. Even yours in Palm meadows when Richard Metee was your trainer back in 2013. Could have won on some races on your horses if given a shot. Breeders are in the game for Breeder awards and hope of getting a pay day in the ring. Buyers at auction are in it for tax deductions buying unraced yearlings at elevated prices for tax deductions and those that race are either in search of fame, money or both. What wins in our game is team work. I thank the clients I have for having faith in me and for being open minded even though I’m not a Dr. Of BS.

          • Your understanding of the broader game comes from a point of view with which I am familiar but choose to reject. Your characterization of why people buy yearlings shows a lack of understanding. Racing is about getting the Big Horse. Everybody wants to get the Big Horse. What nobody should want is a horse that is not a Big Horse but juiced up to look like one. If you want to give credit to cheaters for pumping up mediocrity, that is certainly your right; but the vast majority of people in the game want to do it or see it done the right way.

          • Fred and Joan Booth

            Not all of us! We could care less about the BIG horse. We just wanted to give our horses an honest, fair opportunity to compete. We have had the experiences of several lifetimes in racing with having seen it all! We have had our horses win in the southwest circuit at tracks such as Del Mar, Sun land Park and other New Mexico tracks as well as in Colorado. We have NEVER won at any track in our part of the country! Same stallions, same mares same pedigrees exactly.We have had people offer us only $1 for our colts despite their siblings winning at better tracks than are available to us in our region of the country.It was obvious they were thinking we were using our thoroughbred farm as a loss against outside income which we are not!

            We have been on the backside of our local track training our own horses and hearing the message come over the PA saying,” tomorrow test day everyone be clean” We became completely disgusted in 2004 after witnessing the illegal use of shock wave therapy used on a mare by a trainer everyday for two weeks up to and including the day she broke both legs in a race severely injuring an award winning rider who we had galloped horses on the track many times with. The shock wave machine was owned by the trainer who at the time we were also galloping horses for and had hoped we could place some of our horses in training with. That machine was used with no vet supervision whatsoever.That same crummy trainer and his wife as primary owner are training horses at our local track right now!

          • I hear you. The shock wave was the main reason Chris McCarron stopped riding in the afternoon.

          • Will Styles

            I feel your pain. Both Hubbard and Blanchard own the tracks out west where there horses are stabled and run at. Talk about conflict of interest. Now they will no longer right anything over a mile in New Mexico because there horses pedigree can’t run that far. Albuquerque suspended the lineage and all distance stakes over 7 furlongs. Believe me I understand your pain. The nepotism is so blatant it’s absurd.

          • Mr Webster

            Please use spell grammar check before pressing post!

          • Will Styles

            Sorry Mr. Webster. I don’t have one of your dictionary’s.

          • Kevin Callinan

            You call it street smarts, I’d call it oblivious… it’s what happens when you surround yourself w/ people that have looked at the sport through the same glass for 25 years. Open-minded, really.

        • snazzygirl

          It’s now very obvious – you don’t care about a level playing field for bettors. Shame on you. The owners should be concerned if drugs are being given to their horses….that is, if they care about their horses.

          • Will Styles

            Snazzy, I’ve gambled for over 25 years. Track bias, riders wrapping up on horses down the lane, gate guys holding horses, drugs, injured riders. It happens everyday. Many years ago 2001I got a call from Brian Long, God rest his soul. Telling me he was riding at Oaklawn with both a broken wrist and broken eye socket. Said he didn’t want to lose his mounts and needed the money. Life isn’t fair neither is horse racing. Drugs are not as big of and issue as racing secretary’s giving favorable treatment to barns and owners. Races are one and lost in the office in some cases before the gate opens.

          • Will Styles

            Life is not fair in general, level playing field isn’t possible in racing. Drugs are overrated negative press in our sport. The real problem is with the racing secretary’s through out the country giving preference to certain owners and trainers. That is where most races are won or lost.

          • You are correct, of course Will re the racing office, but on a higher and more important level, a racing secretary cannot turn an okay horse into a Grade 1 winner, but meds can do it.

          • Peter Scarnati

            I’m curious Barry and Will. Please elaborate, if you would, on your “problems” with Racing Secretarys and their staffs.

          • Will Styles

            Peter, here is just one example. I’m in the racing office approximately 11 am couple years back. Draw isn’t until 12:30pm. As I sit on the couch using the offices free wifi to look at race replays I hear the racing secretary say get Nick on the line he needs to enter one to get this 6 the race in the book to go. Clerk gets Nick on the line. Nick responds I’m not entering if Todds be gray monster is in there unless my client can get a check. Secretary says to Nick i will let 2 others out and close the race with only 6 head. Todds owner Mrs. Banke flys in to watch her horse named Hartford run horse wins at 6/5. Nicks horse runs third. The ambition of the secretary to get the race to go for Todd and closing the race before entries close eliminating other possible competitors is unethical period. Fast forward later that same year I asked the same racing secretary why a Florida state bred msw race didn’t go. When we had 8 head entered and it was in the book. He said we need 10 for me to right the race, I don’t want to hear it.

          • Peter Scarnati

            You state the draw isn’t until 12:30. Is that a rule, or merely about when the entries typically close?
            If the Secretary was on the phone with “Nick”, how do you know what “Nick” said?

          • Will Styles

            It was a he said she said between secretary, clerk and Nick until he told her to put him on Speaker phone that’s how I know. Generally entries close around noon, but some times it can take until 1 pm or 2 pm to get the races to go then we draw. On average the draw was around 12:30pm back then. They push certain races for certain outfits and take and do whatever is needed to get those preferenced people’s races to go. That’s why they put up so many extras so it confuses everyone from what’s really going on.

          • Peter Scarnati

            Will, if the Secretary is doing something you say to be less than ethical, why then would he put such a conversation on speaker for all to hear. That doesn’t make sense to me. It would appear from what you’ve said there is no rule or pre-determined “closing time,” which makes that aspect of the story pointless.
            Is it possible the Secretary’s Office “pushes certain races” to merely put together a card of nine (more or less) races, so they can close the entries and get the overnight out at a reasonable time? Or are races always “pushed” only for certain trainers?
            Aren’t extras generally written to “bring back” races which were close to filling and/or races for a category of horse which (for one reason or another) hasn’t had a chance to run for a while? Also, in general, aren’t extras written merely in the hopes of filling a card which may look weak considering what is in the book for that day?
            I am struggling to understand your position that extras are written “to confuse everyone from what’s going on.” Please explain.

          • Will Styles

            I’m not here to argue with you Peter. You asked me to answer your questions and I did accurately. I don’t know why people do what they do. Your right about it being pointless. That is owning and paying a trainer to run horses in Florida. That is definitely pointless for both your sanity and your wallet.

          • Will Styles

            If you write enough extras you leave the impression your horse your paying to train will have the ability to run. The reality is they are putting out 10 to 12 extras dangling the carrot in front of you. Eventually they force you to run in spots you don’t belong so either your horse gets claimed or you run for second and third place money.Believe me when I say it these racing secretary’s have lots of friends and some of them actually own the tracks. We should have rule that what ever is printed in the book must be wrote providing 7 head are entered instead of killing those races for extras with sometimes less horses.

          • Peter Scarnati

            Wow. That’s quite a conspiracy theory you have there.
            I’ll have to leave it at that.

          • Will Styles

            I don’t believe in conspiracy theorys. I live my life by facts and logic. Sorry if you don’t believe me. But sometimes the truth hurts.

          • HorsePower Racing

            seriously ?

    • horsepower

      Sport is already destroyed. These are people trying to make a difference before there is no sport.

      • Will Styles

        You want to make a difference? How about worrying more about the care of the animal on the backside. Like being fed, watered and cared for daily. That’s a much bigger problem then drugs are in our sport. Many owners pay their trainers and they take the money to the casino and it never goes into their horses. I’ve seen it first hand. Drugs are not as big of a problem as they are perceived. It’s just a good talking point. If the Feds get in our sport the price of everything will go up, way up. Causing small owners and breeders to go belly up. Guys like Barry will eliminate their competition through government regulation. The sport will only be available to ultra elites, with small fields, big pots. Which serve the elite owners interest in our sport. It will be bad for racing. The goal of all regulation is to eliminate competition just look at obamacare.

        • ben

          What you basically are saying, the small trainers and owners have the right to cheat. Think this a nice one for the internet media.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Pet them care for them, and put the needle in them.

          • Will Styles

            No Ben, big outfits have way more resources and money to use medicines to cheat. But the meds don’t run the horse does. A good horse can beat a doped one on anyday. That’s what I’m saying.

          • ben

            In that case we have an entirely different view of things about 180 grade.

            It is about the same as for a small start the lasix issue, glenbuterol etc

          • Steve Gibson

            Well you had better go take a look at some more actual sports results then, because you are living in a delusional fantasy world if you do not think cheating with drugs can elevate an inferior athlete in any sport above a clean superior athlete. Particularly sports whose results are predicated upon breathing capabilities, VO2 max, etc… as in horse races.

            As one of thousands of examples, take a guy named Lance Armstrong. A bike rider, who for multiple years could not even come close to finishing a single Tour de France race suddenly won 7 in a row specifically because of using EPO, steroids, insulin, blood doping, and a host of other shall we say “meds.” If you think an inferior drugged up horse can not beat a superior horse running clean I have a nice bridge for sale to you. It’s called the Brooklyn Bridge, and I’ll gladly sell it to you at a very fair price. The bridge toll master is a guy named Chris Christie. He’ll make sure it is open for you 24/7 to drive across, “believe me.” :-)

        • HorsePower Racing

          WRONG – super trainers win at 40% and move horses up 10 lengths in 2 weeks….you are however right about general care issues

          • Will Styles

            Horse power, thanks at least im right about something. I try my best to be as truthful as I can be with my posts without mentioning names.

    • ben

      Everybody knows in the whole world, that medications work much and much longer than the time they are detected. The rules are much and much to liberal in regards to the use of medications.

    • Arrogate

      Yes and if it is Gural’s private property they are racing on it should be his rules or the highway.

    • Larry Ensor

      While I don’t entirely disagree. I have no problem with out of competition testing especially at private training facilities. Shockwave does a very good job of “covering up” joint issues, pain and it doesn’t “test”. Give it a “dose” and ship in for the race and no one will be the wiser.

      But if a Vet shows up unannounced and performs a basic soundness exclaim, jog, flex joint issues will most likely show up. To make sure everything is on on the up and up pull blood and test to see if the horse is on “training meds”.

  • mullenhap

    At Woodbine they cannot race. The horses may be the owners property but the racetrack is the racetrack operators property and they are mandated to protect the bettors. If you want to race at a particular track observe the rules!

  • Condor

    Mr Irwin is 100% correct regarding the use of epo and out of competition testing.

  • Larry Sterne

    It’s not how a trainer can outsmart abother trainer with drugs it’s about protecting the better so it will be a fair bet. No betters. No racing. And we are going there fasT.

    how about the welfare of the horse. Sounds like the right wingers replying here never owned a horse. At least I hope not.

    • SPA

      I agree with you, but protecting the bettor has gone by the wayside and very few horsemen care.

    • Lehane

      Agree. The welfare of the horse is compromised.

  • SPA

    Gural’s only recourse now is to close the place Friday night. These Breeder’s Crown races are owned by the Hambletonian Society so at this point I guess they could step in. Oakes is barred from all Gural tracks, which Gural has a right to do on private property but he has allowed him to race in stakes races.

  • Audrey Gulla

    My goodness!? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…..it’s a bloody duck! Shameful situation. No way those horses should be allowed to run!

  • Thinkitsjustaharnessproblem?

    Chris Oakes owns thoroughbreds. His record as a thoroughbred owner is as gaudy as his training of standardbreds. 14 starts 6 wins 4 seconds and a third with $112000 in earnings. His trainer? Jorge Navarro

  • AtTheRacesNoisemaker

    The judge, like many judges, is an imbecile. Maybe Trump can rid of us them.
    Cancel the race, let the other trainers and owners meet out justice.

    • Steve Gibson

      Yes, we need a President in the executive branch removing judicial branch judges on a whim. Just like most dictatorships. Brilliant indeed, Skippy. :-)

  • Gary Oliver

    All horses have the ability to run..some faster than others..MEDICATION cannot change ability..99%of medication that get tested for are PAIN meds..take away that nagging pain they run to thier ability not 1 step faster…

    • Larry Ensor

      I am not sure I entirely agree. “Pain” in what ever form will certainly keep a horse from running to its best. But IME there are plenty that are “under achievers” who don’t “want” to run/race to the best of their ability. For any number of “emotional” reasons. A number of which can be addressed/changed using certain types of PEDS.

      Common and cheap Ace can turn a horse “around”. For obvious reasons no one would use it if they didn’t want to get caught.

      • Kevin Callinan

        good point, it’s generally a mixture of both. Gary is also overlooking steroid use- Ben Johnson sure got a whole lot faster

        • Gary Oliver

          let me give yall a little insite to my experience..i was a rider for 35 yrs..if it could be given im sure that I rode a few who had it..from morphine to Ritalin to ace to steroids…you name it im sure ive rode a horse or 2 on it…back in the early 80’s when centennial race track was running they would announce that the HEAD man at CSU who did the testing would be at the horsemans meeting…you couldn’t find a place to sit…he would announce he had found a new test for whatever new drug was out…this is NOT a new problem horses have been getting stuff since racing began…not saying its rite but its going to be hard to to stop things that have been going on for 100 yrs…

          • Kevin Callinan

            I went to college in Wyoming, we have to be among the view on this site who remember Centennial. Drug testing has come a long way since the 80’s but it’s expensive, there are legal bills and it requires a commitment by the track operator and the state. Gural has clearly attempted to change the culture of his tracks but the commission has failed to back him on this.

  • Bad Lucky

    Boycott buying crawford farms yearlings.

  • Gallop

    Someone needs to close a Jersey bridge just before Oakes ships in.

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