Pena's Yonkers dominance leads to dash lead
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For the first time in recent memory a name other than Ron Burke appears at the top of the North American trainers’ dash standings. That name is Lou Pena, who currently leads the trainers’ dash standings at Yonkers Raceway, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Chester.
One year ago (through June 28, 2010), Burke led the dash standings with 365 victories, well on his way to a record-setting 840-win season and yet another national dash title. Pena was a distant second at this time last year with 222 victories. Through June 21 this year, Pena has secured the lead with 338 wins, three more than Burke.
While Pena has a nice lead in the dash standings at Chester and a slimmer margin at Pocono, his domination at Yonkers Raceway is unparalleled. He currently has 194 wins at Yonkers, 131 more than the distant runner-up, Mark Ford. His purse earnings of $2.58 million are almost $1 million more than Ford has amassed.
While Pena has an overall win average in 2011 of 31.9 percent and a Universal Trainer Rating (UTR) of .447, he is scoring at a rate of 38.3 percent at Yonkers, with a UTR of .526. Pena’s dominance at Yonkers has been felt on the toteboard as 149 of his winners have been sent off the betting favorite (76.8 percent), with 107 at odds of even money or less (55 percent of his winners).
Just eight times has a Pena winner at Yonkers scored at odds of 5-1 or higher (four percent), with his biggest payoff coming back on Feb. 25 when Flirtiscape won at odds of 99-1 and returned $21.60. Interestingly, the win came in Flirtiscape’s 2011 debut at Yonkers after making four starts at the Meadowlands, and having gone off at odds of 15-1 (seventh), 22-1 (seventh), 28-1 (eighth) and a whopping 130-1 (eighth).
Pena’s biggest night at Yonkers this year came on June 9 when he sent out seven winners—all favorites. His payoffs that night: $2.60; $3.80; $4.80; $5.20; $2.60; $2.60; and $3. The lone Pena starter that night that did not win finished fourth as the even-money beaten favorite.
At Chester, 27 of Pena’s 51 winners (overall win average of 33.1 percent) have been the bettors’ choice, while his 47 winners at Pocono (overall win average of 37.9 percent) have included 31 wagering favorites. Although he had limited starts at Freehold earlier this year, Pena’s 11 winners included 10 favorites and a strong second choice. However, at the Meadowlands things are a bit different for Pena—who has 35 wins to sit second on the standings, four behind Burke—as his win average is 16.4 percent.
Lastly, this Friday night at Yonkers there are only three Pena-trained horses entered on the card, so it should be interesting to see how the toteboard reflects the lesser activity.