Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gural, Luchento, McNamara honored with USHWA President's Awards

Courtesy of the United States Harness Writers Association:

Harrisburg, PA - Jeff Gural, Tom Luchento, and Leo McNamara, the three lead forces fighting for the longterm surviving and thriving of the sport's premier track, the Meadowlands, have been selected by U.S. Harness Writers Association president Jason Settlemoir for President's Awards, to be given at the Dan Patch Awards banquet on Sunday (Feb. 12) at the DoubleTree Orlando by Hilton Hotel at SeaWorld.

Gural, a New York real estate developer and longtime Standardbred owner and breeder, was already the owner of two New York tracks, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, when he became the point man in gathering the necessary capital to acquire and revamp the Meadowlands.

Luchento, a former trainer/driver, is the president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, and McNamara, who has run many successful breeding operations, is SBOANJ's executive administrator.

The horsemen's group is working with Gural and his partners to bring about the vision of a new and reinvigorated Meadowlands, including the construction of a new grandstand.

Settlemoir, also vice president of racing and simulcasting at Tioga and Vernon, said, "I don't know of three individuals more worthy of this small token of appreciation than Jeffrey Gural, Tommy Luchento, and Leo McNamara, for their work in saving our 'flagship' track, the Meadowlands, which was on the brink of closure. All three have played key roles in moving the state-operated racetrack into private hands.

"Gural contacted Luchento about the future of the Meadowlands and was told that the Governor's Office was preparing a statement saying that the Meadowlands would be closing," Settlemoir explained. "Jeff, Tom, and Leo quickly arranged a meeting with Governor (Christie), and soon following the meeting Jeff signed a letter of intent with the Governor to lease the Meadowlands from the state.

"Jeff, Tommy, and Leo have since worked countless hours, and endured many sleepless nights, as they continue to try to figure out the puzzle that has been laid before them," Settlemoir continued. "What happens next is anyone's guess, but there is no doubt that these gentlemen went far beyond the call of duty in giving this much hope to continued racing at the Meadowlands, and for that and many more reasons, these President's Awards go to Jeff, Tommy, and Leo, along with great thanks for what you have done - and what you are going to continue to do."

For reservations at the DoubleTree, call (800) 327-0363 and use the code "C-DPA"; for banquet tickets, contact Steve Wolf at (954) 654-3757; to take a congratulatory ad in the Dinner Journal, inquire to Kim Rinker at (708) 557-2790.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jeff Gural Named Person of the Year by Harness Horsemen's International

Courtesy of Kimberly Rinker for Harness Horsemen's International:

Chicago, IL - Jeff Gural, Tom Luchento, Jerry Connors and Sam McKee are being honored by Harness Horsemen International with a quartet of prestigious awards for 2011.

Gural has been named the recipient of the Dominic Frinzi Person of the Year Award, while Luchento and Connors are being honored with the HHI Appreciation Awards, and McKee with the Clyde Hirt Media Award.

Besides owning and operating Vernon and Tioga Downs in upstate New York, Gural took on his most ambitious project in 2011 -- buying and saving Meadowlands Racetrack, which was scheduled for closure by the State of New Jersey, owners of that facility since it opened in 1976.

Gural, 69, of New York, N.Y., has been "zealously dedicated to improving the Standardbred racing industry," said HHI member Sal DiMario. "Jeff’s efforts in saving the Meadowlands best illustrate what this award stands for."

Luchento, 65, of Freehold, N.J., is a former driver-trainer and the current president of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey.

"Tommy's efforts to save the Meadowlands were unrivaled and it was his dedication that led to Jeff Gural getting involved in this project," DiMario noted. "If not for Tommy's determination, a deal involving Jeff may have never materialized. Together these two men worked against astronomical odds to get this accomplished."

Connors, 55, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the Harness Racing Commission administrator of the PA Sire Stakes and Breeding Program and has served as the United States Harness Writer's Association secretary for over a decade.

"Jerry is an outstanding individual and long-time harness racing aficionado that serves Pennsylvania at the racetracks, breeding farms and fairs," said Kim Hankins of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. "He has worked at many tracks over the years and has also worked tirelessly as an officer of USHWA."

McKee, 49, of Blairstown, N.J., has been the "voice of The Meadowlands" for the past 12 seasons, serving as The Big M's full-time, on-track announcer, and is also the East Rutherford facility's Director of TV Operations (since 2003) and Director of Simulcasting (since 2007).

"I feel so fortunate to be involved at the top level of the sport," McKee noted. "It's beyond my wildest dreams."

All four men will be feted at the HHI annual awards banquet on Saturday (Dec. 3) at the Embassy Suites Resort and Spa, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jeff Gural is 2012 Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame honoree

Courtesy of Tom White, publicity director for the Little Brown Jug:

Delaware, OH - Jeff Gural, chairman of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs and the managing member of the LLC which has leased the Meadowlands, has been elected the 28th Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame honoree.

"This is a big honor for me," said Gural. "To be honest, my favorite two days of the year are when I come to Delaware for the Jugette and Little Brown Jug. Honestly, it is very depressing when the Jug is over because I will have to live another 363 days before the next one. I always say to myself, I hope I make it another year. I look forward to a lot of fun - and I like the junk food, too."

Gural grew up on Long Island near Roosevelt Raceway.

"In those days harness racing was very popular and when I was in high school, I started going to Roosevelt and Yonkers with my friends."

Gural also owns and manages two Standardbred farms, one in Stanfordville, N.Y., and the other in Litchfield, Pa.

Mr. Gural has been an owner and breeder of horses for more than 35 years.

In 2011, he had 35 mares and 25 yearlings.

In 1990, Gural co-owned Jugette champion Lady Genius along with Robert Bencal, Douglas Cass and David Stolz.

"David and I grew up together and after he moved to Columbus, Ohio, we get together for the Jug. We have a great time."

Stolz' company designs and prints the cover of the Dalaware race programs.

Gural has also raced horses in the Old Oaken Bucket and the Buckette, the 3-year-old stakes for trotting colts and fillies.

"I haven't raced in the Jug because most of my horses are trotters."

The 2012 Wall of Fame honoree also sponsors the Miss Versatility mare trot final each year during the Delaware Grand Circuit.

Gural was elected to the Little Brown Jug Society board of directors in 2010.

Gural has also received the 2006 Proximity Award from the U.S. Trotting Association, the 2004 Lee Anne Pooler Unsung Hero Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association, the 2006 Stanley Bergstein Messenger Award from Harness Tracks of America, and the 2006 Frederick L. Van Lennep Award from the Hambletonian Society.

Gural is also the chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, a full service commercial and industrial real estate management firm.

Gural and his wife Paula, who live in Manhattan, have three children and six grandchildren.

"You know what makes Delaware and the Little Brown Jug so great is the large crowd, the county fair atmosphere which is a throw back to the old days, and heat racing. Heat racing is the most exciting racing there is."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tioga Downs Casino will present over $67,000 in checks to Southern Tier Veterans Support Group and Vestal Elks Lodge; Jeff Gural extends $5 Buffet off

Tioga Downs Casino announced today that it will continue to run the $5.00 buffet during the week for the residents of Bradford County, Broome County, Susquehanna County, and Tioga County who were hit hard by the September flood.

All other guests of Tioga Downs Casino will be able to receive a $10.00 buffet with $5.00 of that being donated to local charities to aid the local flood victims.

The offer will run Monday through Friday, from Tuesday, October 11 through Friday, October 28.

"Our neighbors are still cleaning up from the devastating September flood and I feel it's necessary to continue the $5.00 County Fair Buffet offer," said Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, Jeffrey Gural. "We had a great response from non-county customers who paid $10 for a buffet which raised over $6,600 the last 2 weeks of September."

Chairman, Jeff Gural will be holding a press conference Saturday, October 15th at 3:00pm to present $65,011 to the Southern Tier Veteran's Support Group and $2,500 to Vestal Elks Lodge that sends care packages to troops overseas.

Mr. Gural donated $5 for every $10 Wynonna ticket sold and with additional outside donations we hope our veterans and military can be assisted.

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