Racehorse Trainer Lou Pena Banned For “WINNING TOO MUCH”


Sometimes situations get really complicated and in the case of harness racing trainer Lou Pena, the word is out that the world of harness racing has completely run amuck — even more than usual.

Here we have a story where one has to decide whether a trainer is a crook in a crooked sport or a crooked sport wants a good trainer to turn crooked

The object of a horse race is to win.  When you intentionally set out to lose a race, you go to jail or get in really big trouble.  This is where our story gets sticky and icky — which is the general texture of harness racing anyway.

Okay, so there is this guy named Lou Pena and he is a harness racing trainer.  As a matter of fact, he is a VERY successful harness racing trainer.  He is doing so well that the powers that be at Yonkers Raceway — a  track near the Bronx that used to be a dump —  have decided that Lou Pena, a Mexican immigrant, is doing too well.  Because Yonkers Raceway is a private company the folks over there can do what they want and what they want is for Lou Pena to take his horses and get the hell out and win races somewhere else.

Pena’s troubles hover around the fact that when one of his horses wins a race, about seven or eight others lose.    Since Pena wins so many races, he leaves a lot of losers in his wake — and the connections of those also-rans are sore as all get-out.  

So what do the losers do? They buck and whinny and spread stories about drugs and horse drugging.  The whole thing goes haywire and the weird world of harness racing loses its outrageously thin veneer of civility.    In the meantime, if Pena is indeed using a drug, just about every trainer in harness racing would use it too — if they knew what it was and how to get it —  but in the meantime the losers are happy to see Pena and his winning horses get the boot despite the fact that Pena’s civil and constitutional rights are being thrown under a bus — or, in this case, a sulky.

ATTENTION!  ATTENTION! As of next Thursday night (August 4)  Lou Pena will no longer be permitted to train or race his horses at the Empire City Casino track. (Yonkers Raceway).  No reasons were given except for saying “it was in the best interests of harness racing”.

Duh!  Everybody knows that Pena has been banned  because he’s winning too many races.  He has won 435 this year already and those victories raked in nearly $6- Million.   In 2010 Pena won more than $7.2 million.  That’s a lot of chimichangas.

NOTE:  LOU PENA’S QUOTES ARE TAKEN FROM HARNESSLINK.COM — Commentary is added by The Damien Zone.

“I felt sick in my stomach when secretary Steve Starr told me to go. I couldn’t believe it. None of my horses have ever returned a positive.(A test that would indicate drug use)  But I guess Yonkers being a private – track they can turn away who they want.

“I felt like an orphan on the street when they gave me no reason whatsoever. They just said you just gotta go,”

Despite that hand-wringing martyr-about-to-be-burned-at-the-stake  response from Pena, the 42-year-old believes that Yonkers Raceway has trampled America’s Constitution even more vigorously than he has trampled his competition at Yonkers Raceway — and he is 100% correct.  

This time it’s actually amusing to watch and read about harness racing dopiness because mostly it’s just boring and uninteresting. 

“I thought I lived in a country where everyone had equal rights. In any other sport like say basketball, football or baseball success is applauded and the sports people are paid millions of dollars to keep improving.”  <—-They’re going to throw the Barry Bonds steroid stuff at you so get ready to bob and weave.

“Not in harness racing. It’s the only sport I know where the people in the game police each other. At Yonkers it appears that if you succeed you are dubbed a criminal and told to go away.” <— They police each other because they all hate each other.  Each win is precious and when one guy doesn’t get it another one does .

Lou, if you’re really using a drug they can’t detect, and you’re getting away with it as far as the urine testing labs go, you better shut your mouth and get the hell out of Dodge before they hang you from a tree and beat the candy out of you.  Please pardon my  gratuitous jabs at Pena’s Mexicanism but I just can’t seem to resist.

“To me they are the ‘Jealousy Police’. They are people who don’t work and thrive on authority. And when someone is succeeding they like to eliminate him or her. They are the crooked ones – not me. I have proven that time and time again.

“They are now promoting losers and don’t want a bar of anyone who succeeds. I race to win and don’t like finishing second. Is that a crime? If it is then the world is full of guilty sportsmen and women,” a disgruntled Pena said.

You’ve got to give Pena credit for that last quote because he knew enough to use politically correct language,  and the “Jealousy Police” thing was priceless.  I’m mad that I didn’t think of that.  What he should have said, however,  was,  “You croooked harness-racing sons of bitches have tested my horses with the best technology available and none of them have shown a post race urinalysis or blood test for any drugs whatsoever.”

Asked if he now intended to have a lawyer represent him against Yonkers and other tracks where he is a hunted animal, Pena replied:

“I’d love to but honestly I don’t think I can. If I had a billion dollars to throw at them maybe, but it’s a private racetrack and I guess they have a right to say what horses race there and which ones don’t.

“I’m hoping someone will come out of the woodwork and back me. I need a hero to go into bat for me and I’m sure there’s someone out there. This story is a good start,” Pena said.

The mistake Pena will make legally is that he will let some slimy lawyer who works only in harness-racing try to fight this fight — big mistake.   Harness racing has about 3 lawyers working in the northeast who do all the suing and counter-suing.  If he uses any of these misfits  he will lose his case.  They might be the three worst lawyers in the world.  Not one of them is up to this ecehlon of litigation — no shot!  Harness racing is so unimportant, that only a handful of lawyers know how to walk around the various legalities of that industry.   Lucky for Pena, his case is bigger than harness racing and he should be instructed by real people to get a real lawyer.

Yonkers is not the only track to give Pena his marching orders.

Even though he’s still racing at the Meadowlands, Jeff Gural, the new owner/hero-in-training at America’s premier, but fading fast, harness track, has said he didn’t want Pena racing at The Meadowlands  or at his other track Tioga Downs where Pena is already barred.  

Sounds like Mr. Gural doesn’t like Pena.  Gural is trying to clean up harness racing and protect his new investment.  God bless him if he can do it.  Trouble is that trying to clean up harness racing is like trying to clean up Hurricane Katrina with a Swiffer and a ShamWow.

It doesn’t really matter because the aforementioned Jeff Gural just took over the decaying Meadowlands with a dream that he can get people to go back there and wager.  His dream of a towering big, on-track handle on a hill,  as well-intentioned as it is,  has next to no chance of coming to fruition and Pena is not missing anything.   This is why he’s been racing at Yonkers. 

As a matter of fact, Gural had to use the harness racing press to bitch-slap the other trainers and drivers (harness jockeys) who deep-sixed the Meadowlands; preferring instead to race at Yonkers where the money was huge and the future was rosy — even if they had to race against Lou Pena.

When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently tried to dump the money-pit Meadowlands into the ocean about 20 miles off the coast of Atlantic City to form a new coral reef, the Meadowlands horsemen fled.  The track didn’t even have enough horses entered to fill their dance cards because everybody was racing at Yonkers.  Excuse them for trying to earn a living. 

Gural voiced his anger at his expatriates and sort of implied that these defectors were either with him or against him.  I guess Gural planned to pay each horseperson a full salary for the rest of their lives were The Meadowlands to go belly up.  NOT!

The purses for races at Yonkers are the highest ever, while The Meadowlands — look out below —  continues down its mudslide to oblivion.  That’s why it’s built on a wetland.  Even the 1000 or so punters who still go there to bet call it, “The Swamp” — duh! 

The new Yonkers Raceway wealth comes from the slot machines inside the track.  Figuratively speaking, the slot machines are so deep within the bowels of the raceway that practically nobody even watches the races.  Poor slobs never even heard of Lou Pena — how could they?  They can’t even hear hoofbeats going by at 30+ mph amisdt the bells and whistles of The Price Is Right Progressive bonus rounds that provide the welfare checks to the harness racing community chest.   It’s so laughable that I might file this blog under “Comedy.”

So Lou Pena moans on:

“They also changed the conditions twice at The Meadows (A totally different ractrack in western Pennsylvania) just because of my horses. They didn’t want my name down as the owner either. Well if that’s not deceiving the betting public then I don’t know what is.

If Pena were to enter his own horses in races but have them listed as being owned by someone else, he would be charged with the unforgivable offense of racing under  false ownership.  According to Pena, who sounds like he isn’t lying about what was asked of him at The Meadows,  the racing officials asked him to lie.  Go pee if you have to because this gets even better.

“Every gambler deserves every possible bit of information to win – but at the Meadows they are not giving that out. They call me a cheat – which I’m not! Perhaps they need to look in the mirror and find out the meaning of the word deception,” said Pena who works just over 100 horses with his 30-plus staff.

Since he brought his stable to the East Coast from California  in  July 2009 Pena has kicked butt at harness tracks in the NYC Metro area – and he pissed a lot of people off in the process.   This would assume that there is petty jealousy in harness racing.  Actually there is malicious jealousy,  but in reality, and let’s call a spade a spade, the only things the other horsemen are really jealous about are either Pena’s talent as a trainer  (if indeed that is what makes him win) or the fact that they don’t have access to the drugs they are accusing him of using.

The whole “Hatred For Pena in the vein of  The Westboro Baptist Church” crusade began years ago in California, but it really got a full head of steam when one of Pena’s horses kicked the pants off a horse who flew to the USA all the way from New Zealand.   What harness racing world failed to recognize, however, was that the horse who came all the way from the other side of the world was just an average good horse who was only winning because he was racing against other New Zealand horses — that’s minor league harness-racing with a gorgeous backdrop, folks.  

Sorry New Zealand — you’re a lovely place but your trotters and pacers are a tick behind the American brand. 

The whole sideshow goes something like this.  May 22 of 2010 was supposed to be the international coming-to-America-to-kick-ass debut  at the Meadowlands Racetrack for a New Zealand pacer named Auckland Reactor.  Instead, of being a race where a new hero emerged in the form of a New Zealand horse, it became a race where a good-to-average horse came a long way across a big ocean just to get his butt kicked by a slightly better good-to-average horse who just happened to be trained by our favorite muchacho, Lou Pena.

Instead of crowning a New Zealander as the new King of Harness Racing, the Twilight Zone people  in the world of trotters and pacers branded Lou Pena, the trainer of the winner, as a villain.   It didn’t matter that four other horses also finished ahead of the New Zealand guest when he actually finished 6th.  The trainers of those horses were not crucified. 

It’s amazing that crazy people didn’t stand outside The Meadowlands with signs reading:  GOD HATES PENAGOD HATES FAGS WHO LOVE PENA.  PENA IS GOING TO HELL.

Mind you, this commentary is not meant to mock Aukland Reactor — but it was like he came to the USA to sing at the Grand Ol Opry and accidentally got on stage at the Metropolitan Opera.

Since then the accusations of cheating and drug use haven’t stopped.

THIS PARAGRAPH IS TAKEN FROM HARNESSLINK.COM.  — What ensued were relentless investigations by the New Jersey Racing Commission and the United States Trotting Association. There were instances of surprise barn raids where samples would be taken from every horse in the stable – regardless of whether they were in competition or out of competition.

Back to my commentary.

The United States Trotting Association is supposed to be the governing body for all of harness racing but they really don’t do anything.  They let criminals race and their publication “youth Beats” is a magazine that subliminally teaches young kids how to become degenerate gamblers.  It doesn’t overtly do that, but why else would you want to indoctrinate children to learn about harness racing?

Back to the Perils of Pena.

With the racing commission staked outside his barn for weeks on end, following him to the track while at the same time each horse was still being tested, pre and post-race, Pena’s winning never let up, despite it all <—– but never once did any of Pena’s horses have any test show that there were drugs in use — the horses were all clean — at least as far as the technology of the testing could estimate.  New Jersey has very high-tech testing and when they tested 59 of Pena’s horses, NONE of them tested positive.   Huh? 

New Jersey is backwards in a lot of ways, but one thing they have in The Garden State is a State Police Force that is probably the best in the nation.  When those guys get dragged into harness racing crap, which I am sure they detest, they do a thorough job — nothing slips past them.

Without mentioning specific names, Pena told Harnesslink that he had spoken with racing officials who insisted that he take his horses down a notch.

“Officials have called me and said – ‘If you just slow it down a little bit, you’ll be fine’.”

From Pena’s perspective,  — this attempt not to try his hardest – would be cheating (and TheDamienZone knows that this is punishable as a felony).  “That’s not gonna happen; it’ll never happen, ” said Pena.  “The day I die it won’t happen, and if I ever believe I have to cheat to be good – I’ll quit completely.”

We don’t know if what Pena says is true, but in essense, if he is telling the truth, he was asked by racing officials to NOT WIN!  Imagine that — harness racing being crooked from deep inside — what a shocker!  

 The FBI would call that polite request to not win, “Conspiracy to alter the outcome of a sporting event” — that’s like a really huge crime.  Maybe Pena ought to talk to the Feds.  I mean, If he can’t beat them, maybe he ought to send them to jail.  I think that Lou Pena should tell these stories to the FBI — what’s he got to lose? 

So where does he go from here?  More quotes from HarnessLink.com and more commentary by me.

“I have always loved harness racing and have always loved horses. When I grew up in Mexico I lived in a cardboard house and we put fat on the roof so the rain wouldn’t wear it away. <—–Cry me a river Lou.  We already know you’re Mexican. (DZ)

“I didn’t grow up rich and when I came to America in the sixth grade I didn’t even own two sets of clothes. Then I fell in love with harness racing. <—–Poor baby,  but that’s a really good “woe is me” job of laying the groundwork for a discrimination suit.   I guess Mexicans are smart just like regular people. (DZ)

“I found that horses had no common sense and because I wasn’t that well educated I wanted to live the dream and work with them. The sport eventually made me. < — It  sounds like he is saying that he came to a point in his life where he realized that he was as dumb as a horse — ? (DZ)

“But now as I’m really starting to succeed in the industry I’m finding it’s not just the horses that lack common sense. I will carry on as before and abide by the rules, but I have no intention of giving my passion away to the foolhardy. <—But where are you going to do it Lou — as soon as you win a race your new home track will kick you out — you’re a leperAlso, you are not “just starting to succeed — you have been successful for many years.  (DZ)

“I left my family in California to set up here and that wasn’t easy. I have no intention of leaving. No – and Canada is not an option,” Pena said. <— Makes you want to go out and rent The Grapes Of Wrath, doesn’t it? (DZ)

“I’m going to stay here and make a stand for what I know deep down is right,” he added.

Pena’s career tally now stands at 2,594 wins and almost $21 million in purses since he first got his license in 1992.

8 thoughts on “Racehorse Trainer Lou Pena Banned For “WINNING TOO MUCH”

  1. lou , contrary to east coast fans,trainers,owners,race officials did have much success on the west coast…though they have had to endure less purse money of late…california was not a pack of burros racing around a mile track as many of you have eluded to…perhaps you are all racist ..not sure.. look at the stats in california ..

  2. They got guys like Michael Forte who whom drive at a 1% win clip and train horses at Yonkers at a 0% win clip, we’re talking not a few races here, but if you’re on the board of the Standardbred Owners Association in NY, oh well…..feel free to take him out of your all bets, when and if he pops it’ll be on a 6-1 that should be 1-9.

    You may also refer to the Meadowlands as the soon to be improved Ghettolands. In a few hours the Ghettolands will shoot its load with a big day of racing and au revoir…

    Another great Damien article and commentary it rocks and Lou Pena rocks out with his cock out but the good ol boys just couldn’t stand the size of it much less how good he uses it……Baby!

  3. Harness racing fascinates me for some reason. It has all the things that should make something incredibly interesting and perhaps that is why it was so popular in the 1950s and 1960s, but something went really wrong so I figure it has to be the people within the industry itself who made it shitty. It certainly can’t be the horses, right?

  4. Tak — they have a few bucks now and they think they can push a guy like Pena around while at the same time they praise guys like (bleeeeeeep) and (Bleeeeeeep) who got real famous in the 1980s and 1990s by shoving baking soda into their horses — now they are in the hall of fame — it’s a scummy business and mostly because the people in it all hate each other and the people who govern it are all stupid. It’s a shame because the horses are very cool to watch. Harness racing is one of my favorite topics but I avoid it because nobody reads it and then I don’t make any money. Imagine that?

  5. Today’s racing is better racing through chemistry it wasn’t always like this. Most of the monster horses in both thoroughbred and harness racing are freaks through genetics, like Secretariat’s 20+ lb heart or some breeding combo that worked and can’t be duplicated. On the people side well there is a serious lack of transparency and corruption that riddles that industry like cancer, it’s on permanent life support from the casinos the states mandate they have live mutuals and pump the harness purses up despite harness can’t support itself.

    When a Pena comes along you’ve gotta appreciate what he does. I’m not a horseman I know people I know the specifics and inside stuff to this story, it’s ongoing and I won’t even comment off the record. Not even a nun can survive under a microscope of scrutiny like they’re doing to this guy, my guess it’ll wrap up in 2 months or less he’ll be toned down and fine and back to business full steam.

  6. Tak you’re a moron there is Cal Expo a dog shit, shit hole no success no pools no money leads to corruption this guy must be a disgruntled groom who just lost $10 show on some slob. What other harness tracks are out there on the west coast you jackass it’s like racing on and up uranus.

  7. Additionally Tak, you should read the article it was HARNESS racing specific you must be endorsing the great thoroughbred racing out there, Bay Meadows closed down, Golden Gates next, they’re running match races at Hollywood Park because they couldn’t get 4 horses in a race there and when you get a scratch, well you get the point, Santa Anita just changed back to dirt from that filthy, nasty synthetic which resembled something dumped out of a vacuum cleaner same as what they’re racing on presently at Del Mar….don’t even get me started about and they’re off YOU lose Los Alamitos…..racist, you are one dumb hombre, success, yeh Zenyatta she was awesome, that’s it recently. It’s so shocking those horses run 2 seconds faster out there and finish in the back of the pack derby after derby.

  8. This is not uncommon and has happened long before this. Del Miller asked his partner in the Meadows to leave , because he was winning a majority of the races. Back in the day guys were winning at a 13 -15% rate and they were setting the world on fire. Sorry to the people who have their head in the sand, but just because you trainers don’t test positive does not mean their not dirty. The testing hasn’t caught up to them up.

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