WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 14, 2023 — The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) recently honored its longtime president and board member Rich Gillock, who retired at year’s end. At MSOA’s annual Auction for Charity, current and past board members rose to applaud Gillock’s distinguished service and leadership through often challenging, sometimes turbulent times.
Gillock served on the MSOA board for more than three decades, the past 15 years as president. His successor will be elected by a vote of board members.
Kim Hankins, MSOA executive director, presented Gillock with a plaque commemorating his years of service. The MSOA represents the interests of approximately 700 horsemen, horsewomen, trainers, drivers, grooms and owners at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows.
“Rich’s tenure was marked by his absolute commitment to the best interests of the people he represents,” Hankins said. “At the same time, he understood the needs and objectives of Penn National Gaming (owner of The Meadows) and Pennsylvania’s legislators and regulators and so could effectively negotiate win-win-win outcomes. That was instrumental in providing parameters for the new racino era that work for all parties.”
Gillock said he’s stepping down “to give somebody else an opportunity. Some people might want to do some things differently.”
The name Gillock has been associated with The Meadows since the day it opened in June 1963 when Gillock’s uncles, Keith and Ralph, operated stables at the track. Rich himself started in the business in 1974 shortly after his high school graduation, training part time while working at a steel mill in the Mon Valley town of Monessen. Once the mill closed, he began training full time.
Over the years, he trained for some of The Meadows’ stalwart owners, including Nelson Miller, Jr., Harry Locke and Tom Brice — all now departed. One of his most far-reaching and important accomplishments was his work for the late owner Bob Key, who typically had several hundred horses in his stable. Key wanted multiple trainers, the better to spread the benefits widely, and he asked Gillock to manage that aspect of the business for him. So Gillock would match horses with trainers. In any given year, a dozen or more trainers might have Key horses in their stables.
“And it wasn’t just Meadows trainers,” Gillock said. “We had horses with trainers at Pocono Downs and in New York. Bob and I had a special relationship. He had faith in my judgment.”
A retina separation that required four surgeries hastened Gillock’s retirement from training, which occurred in 2022.
“I still don’t have the vision I would need to keep training. I had good people working for me, but it wasn’t fair to my owners if I couldn’t be there to do the work. It’s not worth risking something happening to the other eye. In a way, it’s been a good thing for me. I’m getting to enjoy life a little more.”
He says his successor will face many of the same issues he encountered.
“Our revenue from casinos exceeded projections right off the bat. It was like we hit the lottery for a few years,” he says. “So purses went up, but so did the costs of everything. It may cost $30,000 a year now to maintain a horse. So we have to generate new types of revenue.
“But that’s tough to do because we don’t know what the government is looking for us to do. That’s the biggest issue every year. It’s tough to maintain your income and purses because you don’t know what will happen on the governmental front.
“I think the business will survive in a positive way. We don’t have young people getting involved like we used to, but middle-aged people are buying horses. That may be our salvation.”
Gillock will continue his involvement in the sport as both a Standardbred owner and a director for the United States Trotting Association District 7.
“I love it too much to leave,” he says. “I’ll go ‘til I can’t go no more.”