Earlier today, I was pretty harsh regarding my thoughts of Lou Pena being shown the door at Yonkers Raceway. I will be the first to admit I have been wondering about Pena's ability for the last two years and I immediately thought his being told not to enter horses starting Friday at Yonkers was a case of Yonkers Raceway finally have seen enough that they said 'Goodbye'.
But then I got thinking, there is a Devils Argument which can be made here. Perhaps Pena has not been shown the door for alleged cheating; maybe it is business as usual. Let me explain. First, I am not saying I subscribe to this theory or not, but it is worth exploring.
Traditionally, if trainer John Doe had a horse called Super Horse and he worked his way up through the classes and then beat up on the top class for a few weeks, the racing secretary would suggest the trainer head out of town with that horse for a few weeks. Why? First of all to make the event competitive for wagering and secondly, give other horsemen a chance to earn some money. Otherwise, the trainers may not enter their horses.
Think that is not true? Last year when Tioga Downs attempted to use the classified system, part of the thinking was by using a classified system, everyone will get a chance to win and make purse money. No, you may not win $100,000 on a horse during the meet, but if all goes well for horses drawing inside some races and outside some races; moving up, moving down, a lot of horses are going to earn their way instead of a few dominating horses.
Let's look at the facts. On July 29, Lou Pena had 238 victories over second place trainer Mark Ford who had 79 wins. That is a 159 more victories than the second place trainer, who is no schlep. Could it be that his stable is just too good for Yonkers?
With all respect to the horsemen at Yonkers, there have been quite a few detractors who have said the horses there are racing for far more money than they should be; it is just they are rolling in slot money. Many of these people would claim their $50,000 claimers would be nothing more than a $15,000 or $20,000 claimer racing elsewhere. What if this is true? Due to slot money the claiming prices on these horses are artificially high?
Yes, Pena claims many of the horses he races there and they improve dramatically, but he also brings his own horses to the races. Is it possible Yonkers Raceway has made a decision that his horses are just heads and shoulders above the regular Yonkers stock that he makes the races uncompetitive? Uncompetitive races mean less wagering because it may be fun winning races but how much fun is it winning on horses that pay less than $3.00? How much fun is it for trainers to race against a man who kicks your butt weak in weak out. Maybe they are tempted to leave for greener pastures elsewhere where they know Pena won't be racing and then Yonkers finds themselves looking for horses to race. After all, trainers need to make money to live and to keep their owners happy.
If his name was not Lou Pena and all this attention was not given to him, would we be alleging that Yonkers had enough of Pena's antics? Maybe it is a case of the owners and trainers that supported Yonkers during the lean year getting ticked off that a 'carpetbagger' has arrived and is cleaning up while they are racing for scraps? Maybe it was other trainers threatening to get out of Yonkers because they couldn't compete against Pena because his horses are just too darn good and he is beating them legitimately?
Remember, he was told he would not be allowed to enter horses now by Racing Secretary Steve Starr, not told by management to get out of Dodge. He was told he can reapply for racing privileges in October which coincidentally is when a lot of the better horses call it a year and Yonkers may need those horses racing there. By that time, while he has shipped his horse to race elsewhere, the other trainers are getting a chance to win purse money to keep on going. By October, when they may need horses, and the regular trainers have made their money, they may let him return.
Granted it has never been done on such a wide scale basis that you need to take your horses on the road so everyone else gets their share of the money, but maybe that is what is happening. Maybe it has nothing to do with drugs; nothing to do with cheating; maybe it has more to do with the traditional way things have been done in the past. when you got a horse that is just too good. I guess we will see in October if and when he applies for re- admittance.