Scott Lake won No. 5,000 as he won so many of the races that got him to a milestone that had been reached only five times in horse racing history. Communicator went right to the front in the first race at Laurel Park yesterday and never looked back, winning by 4 lengths.
With that Lake, the all-time leading trainer at Parx Racing and a force at tracks all over the East for the last decade, became the sixth trainer to win 5,000 races. And just to make sure nobody missed the point, the Lake-trained Flight to Eden went wire to wire to win the second race for No. 5,001.
"It's been a fascinating and tremendous journey," Lake said.
The late Dale Baird (9,445) holds the record. Still-active trainers Jack Van Berg, King Leatherbury, Jerry Hollendorfer and Steve Asmussen, have between 5,600 and 6,400 wins.
Lake, 45, grew up in Harrisburg and won his first race at Penn National in 1987. His operation blew up at the turn of the century. At one point, he had nearly 300 horses at tracks from New York to Maryland. With the exception of 2004, when he won "only" won 374 races, he won more than 400 races annually every year from 2001 to 2008. He won a personal-best 528 in 2006.
Lake, who lives in Bensalem, has scaled his operation back in the last few years and now trains only 70 horses between Parx and Delaware Park. He was at Parx on Monday, but did not win with a few starters.
His personal favorite horse? Spooky Mulder.
Lake had the horse in his barn four different times, claiming him, losing him and claiming him back. Spooky made his first start in 2001 and retired in 2009. In between, the horse ran 85 times, with 34 wins, 17 seconds and nearly $1 million in earnings.
"He had it all," Lake said. "He started cheap and he accomplished a lot of things. He was a joy to be around and everybody loved him."
Thunderello was Lake's what-if horse. The horse led until the final yards of the 2002 Breeders' Cup Sprint. He was injured in his next race and retired.
"He had more talent than any horse I ever had," Lake said.
As he was moving up, Lake sometimes would pull up the all-time trainer standings and marvel at his place in them.
"Started at Penn and never thought it would turn into this," Lake said. "It makes you very proud of what we accomplished." *