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Monday, August 1, 2011

Enough of the Smell

Let me state it up front.  Other than one positive which had nothing to do with a 'miracle drug', Lou Pena has not been found with a miracle drug or any other racing infractions since he came upon the Eastern Seaboard the last two years.  So why does Lou Pena find himself banned from Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs; now finds himself apparently uninvited by Yonkers Raceway starting this Friday, and most certainly to be declared persona non grata September 1 by the Meadowlands?

He failed the smell test.  Supposedly he has been uninvited from Yonkers Raceway because he makes the racing uncompetitive, similar to what happens when a monster horse wins his way out of classes and cleans up at the top class at a racetrack when the racing secretary asks the trainer to take his horse out of town for a while so the top class becomes more competitive again.  The claiming rules which were designed to thwart Pena were hurting other trainers as well so by thanking Pena for his efforts and sending him off on his merry way, Yonkers can reinstate their normal claiming rules and there can be a semblance of normal racing at the Old Hilltop.  But don't kid yourself; it was the smell test.  It looks like a duck, it smells like a duck, it quacks like a duke; it is a duck despite your protestations is is a chicken.  While no racing authority has been able to prove Pena is a cheat, there comes a time you realize something is rotten in Denmark.

No one is that good when it comes to training.  Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and other trainers of lore were not that good and it is highly unlikely Lou Pena is better than these trainers.  I am sorry, while there are good trainers and there are bad trainers, there is no secret skill involved in training horses but when you see Lou race at Yonkers and other Eastern tracks you can't help but think he found some long locked secret. 

I'll be the first to say many of these horses Pena is accused of improving five seconds once he claims them, have something in their back lines which suggest they have had the ability to go that fast in the past, but the problem is how they improve dramatically as soon as he gets them.  He brings that back class to life day one, it doesn't gradually evolve.  Maybe one or twice you can unlock the potential of  a horse that quickly, but you can't do that with almost every horse you have gotten your hands on.  So while he still remains legally innocent of recent drug infractions, it has become a case of it looks like a duck....

Is it fair?  I'll leave you to make that conclusion.  However, this is what racing has become; a game where the system of drug testing has fallen so far behind in ability to catch a crook that it is necessary for tracks to depend on the smell deciding who may or may not race.  When you are in a business which depends on integrity, you have no choice but depend on the smell test sometime in determining who may or may not race at your track.  So in the meanwhile, once again a trainer is asked to move on again and he will.  Kind of reminds you of the snake oil salesman doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

Well stated. Trainers can improve on horses especially when taken from bad trainers. However, Mr. Pena does it with an unheard of percentage taking from both bad and good trainers. I must confess though whether people would say something similar about Mr. Ron Burke whose percentage while not as great as Mr. Pena does improve horses as well. Mr.Pena is gone from Yonkers and probably soon from other tracks such as Chester and Meadowlands but rest assured that another will take his place just as the Ledfords, the Ruckers and others have preceeded him. This is also not smthg specific to harness pervades every sport where money is involved. It is human nature.

Anonymous said...

To me the straw that broke the camels back with Pena is Ringside Leah and Docdor Libby. He claimed both of those horses for about 12.5K and within a month they were both racing in the Open. Ringside Leah came first over in a race at Pocono and beat Autumn Escapade, a horse that has banked over $.5MM. He is doing something, it's not training and adjusting equipment.

Anonymous said...

Leave Sweet Lou alone. No test. No problem