05/26/2012 11:29AM

Lou Pena guilty?


In case you have been in a remote part of the world, trainer Lou Pena was hit with 1,719 violations by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Thursday, May 24.

It was certainly no surprise to those in the harness community that Pena could have been doing something underhanded. Trainers with large stables don’t often win around 30 percent of their races with hay and oats alone. However, it is worth noting that the report by the NYSRWB seemed to accuse Pena of administering legal drugs at improper times. They did not cite any failed drug tests by his horses. So, like Al Capone who was sent to jail on tax evasion charges rather than for the “serious” crimes he committed, the Wagering Board found a go-around to prosecute Pena because they couldn’t catch him doing what many people alleged.

Pena has been quoted as saying the Board came after him because he was winning too many races, and he is right. Just like when Barry Bonds hits 70-something home runs. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well, it might just be a duck.

I have to admit that I was always on Pena’s side as others accused him of wrongdoing. I can’t persecute someone without some evidence. Although, I even flat-out told Pena on the phone months ago that I had my doubts about whether his actions were on the up and up. He agreed that looking at the statistics his record looked fishy.

The evidence in this case is somewhat strange in that Pena is accused of administering substances too close to race time, yet he never had a positive test. So, either the testing procedures are poor or the acceptable levels of medication need adjustment.

One thing not mentioned in any reports is the role of the veterinarian in the case. If a vet was supplying Pena with medication or was administering the medication at improper times, shouldn’t that vet be in as much trouble as Pena? Do we know for sure that the records were correct and not fabricated?

For what it is worth, I spoke to a trainer who said most horsemen were quietly happy about the Pena findings. He said that while the majority of horsemen were not wishing bad things for Pena, his cocky attitude did not sit well with his fellow trainers. He also said that there is no way that Pena was able to achieve his level of success without using something more than he was accused of in the NYSRWB report.

From a bettor’s point of view, I honestly do not see the issue some people had with Pena. Doing illegal things is clearly bad for the game, but at least you mostly knew where you stood with Pena. The majority of the time you were going to get a live horse at a short price. He did exceptionally well with horses that were new to his barn and had a bit of class to them. Whatever his methods were, Pena was able to get a peak performance out of many horses on a consistent basis.  I bet on and against many Pena horses and I have no regrets or complaints.

Another good question about the Pena situation is why him? I counted 11 other trainers on the Friday card (May 25) at Yonkers Raceway who were winning over 20 percent of their races at Yonkers. Have all of those trainers been investigated as well? I’m not saying any of them are doing something illegal, but it seems unlikely that Pena could be the only trainer playing outside the law.

Then there is the issue of what’s next. What happens to the horses under Pena’s care? Will they move along to the Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and Jennifer Sabot barns like many of Pena’s horses did when he was banned from Yonkers in 2011? If Pena is exiled, isn’t it likely that some new guy will come along and take his place? I’m all for getting rid of the trainers that are doing illegal things, but let’s not pick and choose who has to go. Let’s weed out all of the bad seeds.

If you are guilty, Lou, shame on you for stealing money from other owners and trainers who put in an honest day’s work in hopes of making a decent living. I will keep an open mind until you are convicted.

Hopefully for Pena his attorney is as adept with the law as he was with his horses.


zzzx x More than 1 year ago
with the advancement of drug testing such as the test called the "Super Test" that can find every substance known to man down to a nano gram in the blood, why wouldn't it be published what the exact violation is. Administering legal drugs too close to the race would show an overage in nanograms set in the rules. So did over 1,700 tests show that? Or is there a whistle blower saying Pena gave nutritional suppliments on race day as a routine? Most race tracks won't even let a horses mouth be washed out with water within 4 hours of a race. If he passed the spitbox and the split sample was checked at a later date then for over 1,700 frozen test samples to be retested would seem unlikely to have been executed. wish we had knowledge of what exactly the evidence is.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
if you are guilty?,this is where the racing form and its writers loose all credibility,they know full well that cheating is rampant but just like the racing officials pretend they have doubts,so this guy gets a positive in california,comes east gets another positive,and they find 1719 instances of adminestering legal drugs too close to race time (wich of course is illegal),the sad part is that this proves what racing fans have known all along testing does not work and is a joke,otherwise he would have tested positive many many times,so the question becomes if the tests did not pick up the 1719 infractions how many other things does it not pick up,ive heard that the testing in florida is done by part time students to cut costs and i have to wonder who does the collecting and testing in new york to cut costs? penal convicts,students on minimum wage,the trainers relatives,who is conducting this charade?.
Jerry Gryczewski More than 1 year ago
Maybe the trainers for midwest thorougbreds should read this
Jerry Gryczewski More than 1 year ago
maybe jamie ness should read this
Pawn More than 1 year ago
Pena had one positive test from what I understand...tricky Rick Dutrow has countess convictions and infractions against him yet he continues to race horses....I know he is appealing a ruling for a ten year ban at the moment but yet still running horses.
Joe More than 1 year ago
These harness guys are legal criminals. They should all be put in jail. Let's face it though. If we could drive harness horses we would steal for our families also. I guess the thoroughbred guys are just as bad. The results that you see now you couldn't come up with if you had tomorrows paper. The only guys that win at the track are on the inside.
Kirk White More than 1 year ago
I have watched Pena for many many years.He had a decent stable in cali for a few years,until he got a positive.The stable shrunk,he came east and sky rocketed ...picking up a new ownership group and owners.If you know the sport he is following the same m.o. as the ledford gang....Buy ..claim ...knock 2-3 seconds off....on Hay ,Oats and ...Vet work? I think the problem will be solved when ,the owner really feels the crunch.No beard trainers after positive! You can't tell me the owner isn't naieve enough to also know it is fishy,yet condones this. They are just as guilty.
The Baron More than 1 year ago
Pena needs a very good lawyer at this point or he is in deep do do - I think any lawyer worth his weight in oats could get him out of this in a hurry - maybe he is cheating - but with out ONE POSITIVE test this is all hearsay and pom pan circumstance!! This looks to be a Witch Hunt with no real evidence of any violations of racing rules/medication violations. Why are they so hell bent on busting a guy with no real concrete evidence?? Presumption of innocence is still on the law books last time I looked and they are making him guilty with out due process at the very least!! It looks to me that the NYSRWB needs to get a better drug testing system before they throw the book at a guy like Pena under the bus and take his lively-hood away from him - they have no "smoking gun" at this point,no needles, syringes, drugs NADA and are trying to convict on circumstantial evidence - which is weak attempt at best. Pena now has to defend himself of a crime that no one clearly can pin on him with really hard facts - plain and simple - if he is in fact drugging horses and cheating - PROVE IT!! That is at the core of the argument - they can not with out reasonable doubt - hence he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. I am not a Pena fan per se - I knew him when he raced at Cal Expo and would win a race now an then - he did OK but no big deal, certainly not posting the numbers he is now at far tougher race tracks - but none the less he is still entitiled to his day in court.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
As pricate corporations , the tracks can ban him regardless of the evience. Overall , I agree with you......anytime someone is successful , they must ne cheating...that's the racing fans of America........Does Pena cheat , probably , but for gosh sakes prove it. How does he have so many (1718) alleged violations and only ONE positive during that time. Want to improve harness racing 1) Allow drug use as long as it is disclosed 2)Get rid of the passing lanes. It has eliminated all aggression
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
his own records indicate he cheated 1719 times,what more evidence do you need than that?,sure a good defense attorney can make sure thats all thrown out,but it doesnt change the facts,A- testing does not pick up anything if you know what youre doing,or it does but gets burried if you have an insider,how else can you explain that the tests have not picked up any of the 1719 infractions.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
exactly how come no positive tests but one.......You talk about these trainers as if they have genius level IQ and are master chemists....they SURELY are not
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
If you allowed all substances period it would even the playing field
ML-NJ More than 1 year ago
People seem to think this guy Pena is really stupid. If he did indeed have some magic elixer which would enable him to win a third of his races, he might (duh?) also know that such a high percentage of wins would invite scrutiny and therefore not use the elixer on all his horses so that his win percentage was only second on the trainers list.
jim samson More than 1 year ago
I'm assuming most if not all of these high% guys are doing / using something unkosher. But since there are so many of them, how is it we can't get ONE SNITCH to spill the beans? The only way that can happen is if ONLY the trainer is privvy to the scam. No one is going to turn himself in. It's possible that they control knowledge of what's happening very closely to prevent being ratted out.
ML-NJ More than 1 year ago
Most if not all? Some few maybe. But some people are just better at what they do than other people. Would you know what to do with a horse if he were put in your charge? Could you change anything to make a horse more competitive, or would you just enter and hope? Would you enter him wherever he met the conditions or would you know enough about the other horses and trainers to cherry pick races where the strongest eligible horses might not also be entered? Do you think Ted Williams cheated?