Harness Trainer Pena Cited For 1,717 Drug Violations, Fined $343,400, Banned Three Years

by | 04.27.2015 | 1:24pm

The New York State Gaming Commission today issued a $343,400 fine and three-year ban against harness trainer Luis (Lou) Pena, holding him responsible for 1,717 equine drug violations.

In 2012, the Commission (formerly the Racing and Wagering Board) took action against Pena after a comprehensive investigation of veterinary records determined that he was responsible for racing illegally drugged harness horses between January 2010 and April 2012. The original hearing and notice detailing all of Pena's violations, including a list of all the violations by horse, drug, administration date, race date and track can be found here.

“We are pleased that this case has finally come to a close and that Mr. Pena is being held responsible for his actions,” Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said. “The Commission takes all allegations of administrations of illegal substances seriously and will continue to uphold the integrity of racing in New York State.”

Pena regularly raced horses in New York while stabling them in New Jersey. In 2012, New York, with assistance from racing officials in New Jersey, conducted a thorough review of veterinary records, which illustrated the 1,717 equine drug violations.

The violations included a litany of substances, most of which were administered to horses outside the permitted timeframe as set forth by Commission rules, including:

  • Adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), Hormone
  • Betamethasone (Celestone), Steroid
  • Clenburterol (Ventipulmin)
  • Cortisone, Steroid
  • Cromolyn Sodium, NSAID
  • Fircoxib, NSAID
  • Flumethasone, Steroid
  • Glycopyrrolate (Robinul)
  • Gonadorelin or GnRH (Factrel), Hormone
  • Hyaluronic Acid Derivative (Polyglycan, GEL-50)
  • Levothyroxine, Hormone
  • Magnesium Sulfate (MAG)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)

After a subsequent hearing and adjudication, Pena and his attorney pursued various legal attempts to avoid his responsibility, all of which were ultimately rejected. Pena never testified to deny that he repeatedly cheated by administering illegal substances to race horses more than a thousand times.

  • Ben van den Brink

    That,s quite a list.

  • Only three years?

    • Hamish

      Wonder if he ever comes up with the 343 big ones? This must be a condition of his reinstatement?

    • naprovniknaprovnik

      How about “lifetime ban”? Why don’t the “authorities” grow a pair?

  • Dee R. Eff

    Dutrow, 19 drug violations, 10 year ban.
    Pena, 1,717 drug violations, 3 year ban.

    • Yes, but Dutrow contributed that personal touch of charm and charisma that’s so essential to the sport, don’t you think?

      • Jay Stone

        Charm and bullshit have supplanted good horsemanship in many cases as they have in the real world.

      • Dee R. Eff

        Rules and penalties should be the same for everyone regardless of if they are liked or not. Just as disturbing is some well known and liked trainers are ignored and not investigated.

      • AngelaFromAbilene

        I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine but my lack of people skills and political correctness take nothing away from my horsemanship.

    • Jay Stone

      Very good analogy. This guy should be gone for the next five generations and Dutrow should have served six months tops. If he had let others speak for him and taken a small suspension he would be now reaping the benefits of the large purses in NY.

      • lastromantribune

        Dutrow wouldn’t keep his mouth shut…

        • keyne

          Dutrow still has his license in his alias “Michelle Nevin”.

          • Pat SayJack

            thought that was him in a blonde wig.

        • Pat SayJack

          the main difference between a convicted felon and a baron of industry is circumspection.

        • Danny Gonzalez

          Dutrow didnt have a positive it was false they knew it but held him to it

    • Figless

      Gorder, 2 violations. 14 months.

  • Jttf

    His horses never tested positive. Testing doesnt work. Minor penalties dont scare the cheaters. The cheaters serve the penalty and keep on cheating. Horsemen wont turn in the cheaters, but they will support the cheaters. Racetrack owners understand that less fines and penalties makes horsemen happier, which means more money made.

  • Keyne

    With the inflated racino purses at Yonkers(and the windows),Pena made A LOT more than 340,000.A non-descript California trainer comes East and cleans up for 3 years and gets fined what,maybe 10% of his take? I guess he is the big,big winner…

  • Keyne

    And while we’re at it….Georgie Brennan made HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS od dollars personally driving for Pena but gets to keep every nickel.I guess ignorance is truly bliss..

  • 17,170 violations gets him another ten years, but not before he serves his time, comes back to the game and cleans up for another five or so years, during which time, the same See No Evil authorities keep their jobs for life. Nice racket!

  • Darren Gray

    Seems in harness racing all the crooks resurface sooner or later. Lifetime ban was needed. 3 years, what a joke.

  • Needles

    So, if my math skills still work, Pena got only about a half day penalty for each infraction? So much for three strikes and you’re out !!!!!

    • c. biscuit

      No need for any math skills here, it comes down to the basic $200.00 per violation.
      What’s even more amazing, it comes down to a 1.5 day suspension per violation.
      What a total joke!

  • betterthannothing

    Those substances are only the ones that were listed in vet records and for only a little over two years. Luis Pena should never be allowed to touch a horse again much less control and medicate a race horse. Yet, that hardcore serial abuser and cheater will be back in only three years even though he will never change. Racing would like to be beautiful and popular yet it allows its perps to continue abusing horses and cheating its patrons. Sick.

    • NY Neil

      He won’t get his license back until he pays the $343,000 fine. So the 3-year suspension will be a lot longer

  • youcantmakeitup

    Pena wont miss a beat. A lot of the standardbreds are trained on farms in New York, New Jersey, Delaware etc. They ship in and race and then back to the farm. Here comes the program trainer and the beat goes on. In horse racing , you get caught and all you get is a little inconvenience and the horse continues to get abused along with whats left of the betting public. And to think that when I make a wager, a little bit of it ends up in his purse account. Maybe its time to stop my complicity in it.

    • Keyne

      Pena,like a lot of other IDIOTS,might’ve never got caught if he weren’t so greedy winning 5,6,7 races a night.There was a lot of racino money going around.If he were judicious with his drug use and shared the wealth a bit mor,he wouldn’t have drawn the jealous ire of his contemporaries…

  • gus stewart

    For those of you on the east coast and anyone else that believe what they read is the truth,,, So that being said, if any of you think many high profile trainers in any from of racing over the last 20 years didn’t do the same is clueless. So why were they not reviewed on their vet records. The gaming commission ruled on this with Lou, yes that’s the gaming commission. The fact of the matter is all these medications are used within, check the wording, within a certain time frame. It took them 2 years to come after Lou when he was cutting edge on what he did with his horse. He was winning so much the other owners and trainers tried to figure out why, and if they couldn’t “then lets find a way to get him out”!!!!!! So before you throw him under the bus, ask yourself why do we allow all these meds on tracks with vets anyway, And why do trainers like Dutrow get so many years… I would say your answer may be found with the few powerful and wealthy owners who use high profile trainers (who don’t get FBI search like Lou or Dutrow) that keep the horse biz alive!!!! I think if your going to find a technicality to come after Lou, then tell the truth that many other trainers use the same stuff, your misrepresenting him who I consider to be someone who I know has helped many people in his life. He does not live in a mansion like you may think!!!!!

    • Keyne

      If he doesn’t live in a mansion,HTAT IS HIS OWN FAULT,as he has stolen enough from unwitting bettore and competitors to buy 10 mansions.It’s not hard to help people with money you din’t earnfairly…..I hope there is a fiery plane crash in his future.

    • Peyton

      ‘He was cutting edge on what he did with his horses.’
      You need to go to jail with him for making that statement.

      • gus stewart

        I don’t chastise people for their opinions, but you obviously are oblivious to what has changed in the horse racing biz over the last 20 years. You are entitled to your thoughts, but I don’t wish that you go to jail….

    • stanleydee

      Well said, you, unlike the other posters have some knowledge about what you write about. Thank you.

  • bill anderson

    I may be a novice here but if his horses never tested for anything how do they know how many violations he committed?

  • Boknows

    What a Joke!! Three years?? This Creep should be Prosecuted and put in Jail!! Are you Kidding Me!! Should never ever be allowed to be around horses again!! Much less any Animal…!!!

  • gus stewart

    To those of you who again don’t get the hypocrisy of this. Horses are tested after each race when they win, But for Louie years after , his test was given a timing conditional requirement. Where was the proof a week or two after the testing,,,, HMMMMMMMM!!!!!!! are you getting it now!!!!! Its all about perception of pretending your are cleaning the sport up….

  • C Hogan

    Why isn’t he in Prison for defrauding the public.

  • Michael Castellano

    Sad but probably true, if you want to know the worse offenders in both harness and thoroughbred racing, just see who has the highest win percentages. Which reminds me of something said in another forum here by another participant, that the decline of the thoroughbred breed is mostly fiction promoted by the high end trainers to justify all the meds they use. Well, we don’t notice a decline in the number of career races for harness racing, even though the same drugs seem to be rampant in that industry. So what is the reason for the decline in thoroughbred career starts? Could it be these same drugs in combination with poor training practices? I don’t claim to know, but I’ve been told by people who study genetics that 100 years is not enough time to corrupt a breed genetically.

    • Ben van den Brink

      Trotting is gooiing at an less speed than galopping, so that is why, trotters breakdown rates are less compared to TB,s

      • Michael Castellano

        Less speed yes, 32mph for a mile on average compare to 37mph on average, with bursts up to 37 and 47 respectively, but the gait produces its own stresses and rigidity. You would think that with all the abuse with the drugs, career starts would still be effected.

    • Bill O’Gorman

      Thank you – a good point that I had overlooked.

  • BILL CASNER

    Levothyroxine is a synthetic thyroxine also known as Thyro-L and is one of the most widely abused meds by a large number of major stables. It is routinely administered to every horse in the barn. Thyroxine is the master hormone that regulates metabolism. It will make young horses more precocious and older horses more energetic for a period of time. The consequence is a negative feedback causing diminished autologous secretion resulting ultimately in atrophy and shut down of the gland leading to a major crash. It is the most abused hormone on the track and it is as bad if not worse than anabolic steroids. Its use is rampant on the backside and I can’t recall a trainer ever being fined, suspended for its use. The reason–all a vet has to do if questioned is to report the horse is “hypo-thyroid” and the med is for therapeutic reasons. Per one of the top University vets in the country, “hypothyroidism is virtually non-existent in young Tb. Horses.”

    • gus stewart

      So as wrote on this blog, Lou was not the only trainer that uses the available meds.. Each vet can be the spokesperson for the trainer justifying each use of each med. I know because I do, that this was used by many other trainers he just got it done better then the other trainers. He was winning too much, and he was ousted by the powers in NY. I would like everyone to know, its about the, 20 years of changing meds, not training techniques. Vets and the business need to be accountable to the industry and the horses. Money and politics still dictate all policy. Lou just was a bandage for the sake of perception that things are moving forward… Yes but with limitations excluding big trainers and big owners. Sounds like our current court system with money and celebrity .Maybe something positive will come from this but it in my opinion was unfair to Lou!!! .

    • mike

      Bill can we found out which horses are on this in the KY Derby?

  • Nancy Taylor

    Certainly appears as though the drug cheats are far ahead of the Labs hired to catch them. No wonder public perception of the integrity of the industry is so low. Got to wonder if the authorities really want to nail the ‘super trainers’ or will it be business as usual ? Sadly, it looks like the status quo is prevailing and the sport will remain ‘dirty’

  • Charles Smith

    It’s not possible to argue with the severity of the suspension and fine. You can make an argument that he could have gotten a much longer suspension. I agree with the posters who feel Lou will have beards /program trainers that will allow him to carry on training off the farm. Gilberto Garcia Herrera has been associated with Lou dating back to the late 90’s at Cal Expo, where they were both trainer drivers. Gilbert drives Brennan and George Nap. at Yonkers and Pocono respectively, just like Lou did.Lou is in his early 40’s, in theory he could come back, but he’s likely to get the Jeff Gural treatment at tracks other than the Meadowlands when his suspension is up. It’s ironic, but anybody who knew Lou at Cal Expo will tell you he was the nicest guy ever, a shirt off his back kind of person.

  • soxbills

    For the life of me, I do not understand the process here. I am assuming that they tested each of these horses, found that a substance was administered, why was he not fined when it was first found out. If there is money involved who can you trust is the big question, did he profit from bets on these horses also

  • hype22redux

    truly laughable…51 years of racing and I am winding down my involvement

  • Dobeplayer

    What? They couldn’t nail him after the first 500? 750? 1,000??

  • Iceman

    What a joke. Bill Robinson in 2003 got 5 years and 100,000 fine for high TC02 and 10 violations in Canada and then in 2007 his son Brett and his own stable got 10 years for EPO. So New York Gaming finally after all this time and 1,717 violations gives Pena 343,400 and 3 years. No wonder racing is in the toilet, the idiots that should be policing the sport seem to feel it’s ok to let the bettors take it where the sun don’t shine.

  • Cmacjake

    If this does not constitute a lifetime ban what exactly would it take to do so?

  • Gate To Wire

    I wish everyone would just leave Lou alone. I hear he is a nice guy and it’s probably just contamination anyway. Every trainer caught is innocent. Don’t you know that? :-)

  • Richard C

    One year each for around 600 violations — that’s great odds to keep the syringes loaded for any Dr. Feelgood.

  • david

    What took so long should be the question

  • Robin

    Why not a life time ban? It is a shame that people who keeps the HORSES best interest gives him this ‘punishment’! What a joke….

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