As most harness racing fans know, Andrew Cohen has been speaking of trainer Lou Pena's success, in two harnesslink articles. The first one is here, the second (with follow-up reaction) is here. These articles are some we do not see much in harness, although in thoroughbreds Andy Beyer has spoken of such things several times.
We have all seen Lou's horses go, and go they do. Since moving east from Cal-Expo he is a one man wrecking crew. At Chester he is 4 for 5 off the claim in 2010 (12 for 16 off claim at Chester since he got out east last year), for an 80% hit rate. At Freehold he is 2 for 2 off the claim in 2010, at the Meadowlands he is 4 for 12, making 2010 a 10 for 19 run. Overall his numbers are remarkable: 172 for 580 for a 30% hit rate, and a 0.430 UTRS.
When we compare those numbers to his Cal Expo ones: In 2008 (his last full year out west) he was 101 for 848 for a 12% win percentage. Going back in a database for 2008 and 2009 at Cal Ex his off the claim numbers were a shadow of his current ones. Out of 9 races off the claim he had zero wins, two seconds and zero thirds. Of those off the claim, four of nine horses came 7th or worse, with two coming dead last.
Whatever side you come down on the issue, it is hard to ignore that this is an issue. I give full credit to Cohen for having the guts to at least make it a point of discussion, like Beyer does on the runner side. We need to have frank discussions about things like this.
Sportswriter's debut was last night at the Hawk. He came second in 150.2. He looks to have a ways to go, to me. Off a 56.1 back half, against horses who are not doing too well, I would have expected him to blow them away easily. He was beaten by a former stablemate who was recently in a 40 claimer. Comparing that to All Speed Hanover's prep last week at the M, we see the difference in the two, as handicappers. All Speed had a similar trip, but in horrible fractions for his spot on the track. He came home in 53.3 off the bench against some very good horses, and I thought raced super.
Rock n' Roll Heaven keeps on rolling. His very nice 148.3 effort yesterday at the M was eye-opening. He is not a flash speed horse like so many we see lately as our breed gets faster and faster (although it goes without saying he is very fast), but he is so very impressive when he is sharp. Let's see if Bruce can keep him that sharp for the next seven or eight weeks for the two richest races for pacers in our sport. If he does, the field better be on their toes.
Ideal Matters was a rather poor third, I thought. Off that trip I expected more from him and I have to think he was not at his best last night. Let's see if he can bounce back with a better effort next time.
Won the West won a good Molson Pace final on Friday picking up the lion's share of the record purse. They had a good crowd and a decent handle. Kudos to Western Fair for trying to brand this event each year.
I think starting this week we will get our pal Greg to outline his Top Ten for the NA Cup as we have in previous years. I hope to start that this week if he is up for it.