It's official, super-trainer Lou Pena, who moved out from California a couple of years ago and started winning everything, left and right, as been barred from Yonkers, according to Bill Finley at Harnessracingupdate.com.
"Pena said there was no reason given to him for the ban"
As you all know this has been a hot button issue since last year, when Andrew Cohen (then of Harnesslink.com) started looking into some of the Pena magic. Since that time the trainer has been under the microscope and so far none of his horses have tested for anything in the mileau of cocktails our various jurisdictions test for.
This whole situation feels similar to that of Seldon Ledford, in terms of the numbers. Mr. Ledford came virtually out of the woodwork in 2008, winning with horses off the claim with numbers rarely seen in racing (although there have been a few trainers who have won at that rate since the presence of Aranesp and other designers, but they are now all cooled off). After a long investigation, as you know, Ledford and others were charged, when drugs and other paraphanelia were found in an ATF raid.
Mr. Pena's numbers, are for lack of a better word, shocking. Last year when Cohen was on the warpath I personally did some digging and posted:
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.
This year I noticed handicappers on boards (hat tip to the "whip" at Harnessdriver.com) are also crunching the 2011 numbers:
As of June 16th...
Year To Date: 60 Starts; 22-6-8; 0.467 UDRS
1st Off Claims: 5 Starts; 4-0-0; 0.800 UDRS
Freehold -- Full Stats (Meet Closed)
Year To Date: 44 Starts; 12-12-5; 0.462 UDRS
Year To Date: 137 Starts; 44-24-19; 0.465 UDRS
1st Off Claims: 6 Starts; 4-0-1; 0.722 UDRS
Year To Date: 85 Starts; 35-7-9; 0.493 UDRS
1st Off Claims: 13 Starts; 8-0-1; 0.641 UDRS
Year To Date: 338 Starts; 89-57-46; 0.402 UDRS
1st Off Claims: 12 Starts; 4-3-1; 0.500 UDRS
That's 10 for 19 off claim in the sample I looked at last season and 20 for 36 this season, for a grand total of 30 for 55 or a 54.4% win rate off the claim. So, what we have is a trainer who was 0% off claim in California, with a 12% win rate, moving east and winning off the claim at a rate that is unheard of, for as long as I have been following thoroughbred and harness racing.
In contrast, when the heat was put on Ledford, he was winning at 41% off the claim.
Whatever is happening, none of us know. All we know is that when a trainer comes out of the woodwork to win like this, get ready for tracks and the authorities to do all they can to address them, because they have a track record of doing just that.
Note: It's Industry Day at Grand River. 1:30PM Post, free programs and video and a nice card, featuring the $300k Battle of Waterloo.
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