07/03/2012 5:30PM

Yonkers, Guaranteed Wagers, Lou Pena, Meadowlands Pace


Every week I endeavor to write about a single topic and it seems I rarely succeed. The topics for the week are a Yonkers Raceway disqualification, Lou Pena, guaranteed wagers, and the Meadowlands Pace.

On June 29, race seven at Yonkers Raceway featured a rare reason for disqualification when the horse that won wire to wire rather easily was placed last. The infraction committed by Second Hand News was backing down the pace and causing confusion to trailing horses. Basically the horse was dq’d for trying to slow down the pace going to the quarter. It was decided that the move by driver Brent Holland created a chain reaction which caused horses to be in close quarters and forced one horse to break stride.

Let’s get one thing straight, in most races the horse which gets the lead will look to back down the pace. After watching the replay multiple times, I have come to two conclusions:

1) The leader cannot be held responsible in this case because the horses behind her had ample time to adjust to any change in the pace. It reminds me of when you are driving a car. If you hit someone from behind, you are at fault; not the guy in front.

2) There are instances where horses on the lead cause legitimate confusion, but the incident has to be clear and obvious for a disqualification. This was not a clear cut call and the early fraction was hardly excessively slow for the class (:28 2/5).

Plus, it just looks bad to disqualify a horse that wins easily by 3 ½ lengths when the only possible infraction was trying to win.

Check the replay for yourself on the Yonkers Raceway website - http://www.empirecitycasino.com/livevideo/ - Just click on the calendar date (June 29, race 7).

The Lou Watch

I always found trainer Lou Pena to be a nice guy and someone who was very easy to speak with. While others were convicting him long before he was charged with any wrong doing, I always tried to keep an open mind. My mind still remains open, but even I am getting fed up.

How many stories do I have to read about what a great guy Pena is and how he was treated badly? Just like everyone else who is accused of something, he has to go through the process. Eventually he will be found innocent or guilty.

Sorry to say, but business goes on as usual with or without Pena winning at high rates. I just finished watching a horse move into a barn that wins over 30 percent of their races. The horse set a lifetime mark and knocked two seconds off that final time. Now that is training!

Guaranteed wagers

The Meadowlands is adding some new wrinkles to their wagering menu in July. They are adding a $100,000 guaranteed pick four pool on Saturdays and a $10,000 guaranteed pick six pool on Fridays. There are more additions but I am not at liberty to write those quite yet.

To me the biggest news is the $10,000 guaranteed pick six pool. I would imagine that they won’t reach the guarantee on the first Friday (July 6), creating nice value for those that wager. On top of that, seeding the pool could spark a nice carryover with just a few no-hit nights. As we all know, carryovers create buzz.

Yonkers Raceway spices up their pick four guarantee on Tuesdays to $25,000 starting tonight. It will be interesting to see if the boost from $20k to $25k results in higher handle.

Yet to be posted special guarantees in conjunction with the Strategic Wagering program are Meadowlands Pace night (July 14) pick four(s) and a pair of pick fours at the Meadows on Adios Day (July 28).

Meadowlands Pace

Two strong elimination fields of eight have been assembled for the Meadowlands Pace on Saturday.

Despite the presence of A Rocknroll Dance and Hurrikane Kingcole in the first split, I’m expecting Sweet Lou to bounce back and earn the opportunity to choose his post for the final on July 14. The second elimination is much more wide open. I’m not willing to be tied down to a selection quite yet. All I will say is that wagering on the favorite (probably Thinking Out Loud) seems like a bad bet in that field.

Meadowlands Pace fields

With so many quality colts entered, perhaps a record-setting mile is possible in the $600,000 final? You read that right, the final purse has dropped from $1 million to just $600k, which is lower than the original estimate of $800k.

I’m honestly not upset by the $400k purse reduction, but then again, I don’t have a horse in the race. It will be hard, however, to look at the Pace as the top race for pacing colts without the million dollar purse attached.


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Jay More than 1 year ago
You touch the Pena story but don't comment on the driver aspect. George Brennan was driving at the Meadowlands last night after Gural grandstanded that George would never drive there. Also noted with interest that the other drivers associated with the Meadowlands but who have been missing in action all meet (Sears, Tetrick, etc) have all also suddenly showed up. As an outsider, appears to me that the drivers were telling Gural to stick it in general and over the Brennan/Pena thing specifically. Looks like someone made peace. I will also add the best racing of the meet was last night. The Meadowlands racing was starting to look like Freehold racing. perhaps there is a hope it will return to form. Yonkers could have stolen the spotlight, but those numnuts can't get out of their own way. When Cuomo finishes cleaning out NYRA, Yonkers will get a shot at stardom. The new, gov't run NYRA showed its stuff quarantining Drug O'Neill and I'll Have Another right out of the Belmont.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Good comments Jay !! I think the "regular" meds drivers gave Brennan the Big M salute in the 1st race. ( And a inquiry to boot ) . I think the drivers are standing behind Jeff Gural. Owners, Trainers, andDrivers need to be ambassadors for the sport... They need to promote and clean up our sport... not get involved with defending certain people in interviews. Last night was a great night in harness racing....just wait till next week !! We also have the Hambo coming up !! IMO the Yonkers Trot was a non event. Stan B would not be proud. I think Stan would rather be at the Big M where there are actually harness fans in the stands during big race nights. The Hambo should be the 1st leg of the trotting triple crown. Good day all....
ML-NJ More than 1 year ago
What BS! If I were in overseer of harness racing in NY, I would see that the place was closed down (stupid lottery machines too) for at least a month.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
and what would you tell the employees and their families about salaries and beneifts. I hate simpleton remarks......I think the drivers cheat therefore I will penalize the workers and their families. Pathetic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been watching harness racing for 40 years and I have never seen a horse go wire to wire like that and get taken down; it's surreal. It's one thing if he cut across the field and bothered another horse, but that didn't happen. Shaun Vallee was asleep in the 2 hole and when Holland slowed the field down, Vallee's horse ran up on his back and caused the very minor chain reaction. As a bettor, at least most of Lou Pena's horses tried to win which is more than I can say about some of the other trainers and drivers.
John More than 1 year ago
Agree with DW Yonkers disqualification did not seem warrnted.
Rob More than 1 year ago
Reason 100 to not play yonkers I don't see horse at t-bred tracks getting taken down for going ot the half in 52seconds in a turf race but we see it all the time. I' sorry its up to the drivers in the race to not allow the horse in the lead steal the race Holland did what he could and slowed the race down and sprinted home but the stewards call foul and steal from the public again somebody needs to get a good lawyer and file a class action lawsuit against the state of new york not only for Pena but for this too.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
It's refreshing to see so many fans speaking out against this decision. I think a time study needs to be done... Take a sample of 20 races that have horses running out to the lead and see what % of horses "slowed down at the same point holland did. I think with the technology available more scientific explanations of these type of infractions are owed to the betters. I think this area of Harness racing should be improved tremendously...too many subjective opinions from stewards . IMO
Tim UTLEY More than 1 year ago
That was the worst stewards decision ever. Hey Yonkers! I will never bet a penny on any of your races again. I didn't even have a wager on that race.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Back in the day , I do remember drivers getting fined for setting too slow a pace and perhaps Holland had been warned before but to penalize the betting public is absurd
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
"The bigger story not written here to me is the fact only FIVE horses entered in the Yonkers Trot, what is supposed to be the first leg of the Triple Crown of Trotting" Good Point WG The Yonkers Trot is nothing like it used to be. The Hambo still draws big crowds and is entertaining for everyone. The Hambo should be the 1st leg ! The Yonkers Trot cannot hold a candle next to the Hambo. The Hambo is the KY Derby of harness racing. Let the race with the most support from fans be the 1st leg. It's a No brainer ! Hopefully the DRF will agree and lobby for the Hambo to be the 1st leg of the triple crown for trotters. I want to thank the DRF for this forum so that Harness fans can offer suggestions about improving the sport that we love :) Johnny Espo
W.G. More than 1 year ago
John: For a good number of years, the Hambo WAS the first leg of the Triple Crown with the Yonkers Trot the second leg. Yonkers moved it because Balmoral was running the American-National directly in front of the World Trotting Derby. You would need for Balmoral to agree not to run the American-National in August for the Yonkers Trot to go back there. What would then do if the Yonkers Trot were the second leg is to require the Hambletonian winner to start in the Yonkers Trot (but if there are eliminations, the Hambo winner would skip that and go directly to the final with all fees refunded if nominated originally and paid if needing to be supplemented) or the Hambletonian is then awarded to the highest finishing who who then races in the Yonkers Trot. The sport needs to have horses going for the Triple Crown, which is what causal fans see, and it is to those fans the sport has to kowtow to in this case.
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Very good point WG ! The fans need to cheer for a triple crown winner. Harness racing says it has a triple crown for pacers and trotters...does the fan really care?? More money needs to be placed in advertising. It does not make sense to have several races of purses of almost 1million dollars each year and not spend any money on the vague triple crowns of harness racing. Hrseman and drivers make millions each year ( brennan,tetrik,sears,gingras, burke, colman,tanker...ect...) yet no monies are put back into investing in advertising...are they afraid of something??? J.Esposito
John Esposito More than 1 year ago
Rick Harrington More than 1 year ago
Umm... other horses, you could go around the slower horse. You're not required to stay right behind. Maybe if more drivers went out and pressured the pace even if they were stuck 2-wide in a 1/2 mile oval's turn, there'd be more to harness racing than getting to the lead at the opening quarter, slowing up for a 1/2 quarter breather and then running off just past 3/4's. Especially when you can see how fast the quarters are.