scott lake closing on 6,000 winners

Dale Baird. Steve Asmussen. Jerry Hollendorfer. Jack Van Berg. King Leatherbury.

Those are the only five names on a list of trainers with 6,000 career winners in North America.

By the end of this year or early next year, Scott Lake, a member of the inaugural Parx Racing Hall of Fame class and the man who has trained more winners at Parx than anybody else, will become the sixth name on that list. With 5,931 winners, he is just 69 away.

“It’s the one goal I’m reaching for,” Lake said. “Anything after that is fine. It’s a pretty good club to be in.”

Lake has a full barn at Parx and a nearly-full barn at Delaware Park. There was a time in the early 2000s when he had full barns everywhere. At one point, he was training 287 horses at seven different tracks while driving anywhere from 90,000 to 120,000 miles per year.

From 2000 to 2009, he had 4,130 winners, an average of 413 per year. In 2006, he had 528 winners. In 2007, he had 2,345 starters. It was exhilarating and exhausting. So Lake began to cut back.

“It was a combination of things,” Lake said.

The operation had gotten so big it was hard to keep up with all the bills. He wanted to spend more time with his kids. And his accountant stole more than $1 million from him.

“It was a conscious thing to scale back,” Lake said.

Lake got his start at Penn National, but it was when he came to Parx nearly 20 years ago that his career blew up.

“E & G (Stable) asked me to move there and it was the best thing ever for me,” Lake said.

Lake has won 1,828 races at Parx. Being at Parx gave him the opportunity to find more owners or, actually, for more owners to find him. At his peak, Lake thinks he may have had more than 100 owners.

Communication with all of them was complicated. Lake was training horses from New York to West Virginia. He was running horses at all those tracks just about every day. There simply were not enough hours in the day.

When asked how much longer he wants to train, Lake said, “Why would I ever retire? This is the greatest game ever played. It beats you down sometimes. There’s days that I go ‘man, I’m moving to Hawaii, I’ll live in a little studio apartment and (ride) a moped and I’ll be happy’.”

Meanwhile, Lake continues to train his horses. Wins have been very hard to come by at Parx this year, but horse racing is a game of streaks and with 6,000 in sight Lake is not stopping now.

“It’s something you never even thought about,” Lake said. “You see these guys (on the list) as you’re growing up and they’re your idols. To win 6,000 and be in that group, it’s mind-boggling for me. It means a lot.”

His kids don’t really follow the sport, but last year, Lake’s son came to him and asked, “Dad, you’re the sixth all-time winningest trainer ever?”

“I was like ‘yeah,’” Lake said. “He was like ‘no way’.”

Now, with “Alexa” in his kitchen, he will occasionally ask, “Alexa, who is Scott A. Lake?”

The answer is the trainer with the sixth-most wins in the history of North American racing.

Lake’s oldest daughter is 19 and in her second year at Lehigh University. His other daughter is about to turn 15 and his son is 12.

And it’s all true: their dad really has won all those horse races. Those horses have accounted for $114 million in career earnings and have started in 27,702 races.

The numbers really are quite amazing, as is the milestone that is just over the horizon for Scott Lake.

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