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Thursday, January 12, 2012

In Defense of Lou Pena

Let it never be said that I am not even handed.  I was going through my email and came across a letter I received a while ago regarding Loou Pena.

I am taking the liberty of reprinting excerpts of this email I received; mainly due to space considerations and also to protect the identity of the person who wrote the email as defending Lou Pena is not popular and did not know I was going to reprint it.  Where changes have been made to protect the person who wrote the letter, I will denote it in brackets.

Ive known Lou since he was a kid. [redacted to protect identity of letter writer]. His mom, dad, and Lou worked for Jerry Silverman and Gary Baker. Lou does have talent.

I'm going to ask you to look at Lou's Yonkers starts.  Do you have the win percentage for post positions? And then the win percentage for Lou in those positions? I sincerely believe the talent level of the training in the East has been reduced.  Lou has always taken care of his horses.  When he was training [at Cal Expo], there was a training facility off track that he shipped in from with paddocks and a POOL, he raced out of there for years until it closed.   

 I agree and am the first to point out the uncanny win percentage.  But until there is a positive test, I'm going to give him the huge benefit of being a better trainer. Shoeing changes, blood work, using the VERY BEST DRIVERS, equipment adjustments and changes, and getting the horse's mind sound are all very important and things that he excels in.

[not German to this conversation].... is he smarter than Yonkers management? is he smarter than the New Jersey/New York racing commission investigators who have set up camp at Lou's barn? 

[redundant information].  Also, have you ever noticed any strange betting patterns or payoffs on races that Lou has won? I ask this seriously as I have never heard of an exacta that came back short etc....

I am not saying the letter writer is correct.  But with slot money in the East coast could it be that the training colony has weakened so much and Pena is a superior trainer as this person who used to be on the West Coast claims?  It may be a case there is no test which will currently reveal what Pena may using, but there may be a time when racing has to accept that Lou Pena is clearly a superior trainer over those that came East in search of slot-fueled purses? 

Playing Devils Advocate, let's not kid ourselves, let's say for argument sake Pena is a legitimate trainer who is a vastly superior trainer over many of the ones racing he is racing against.  If he wins too many races when compared to other trainers, even if he is a legitimate trainer, the difference looks bad.  He also kills win prices, which chases away those gamblers who are looking for better payoffs.  Is that a legitimate reason to exclude a trainer?

I know people complain how he steps up a horse that quickly and when someone else gets hold of the horse, it is a shell of what he was when Pena had him.  Pena would not be the first trainer to gut a horse for purses, ruining them for a while or permanently, especially when we have a rent a horse mentality going on?  Is it good for the horse?  Not necessarily, but it is an ugly part of the game.  I assure you there are other trainers who are known as ones you don't claim off of.  Maybe Pena has the key with certain horses?   Years ago there was a cheap claimer named Branch Dan Prince who raced on the Yonkers and Roosevelt circuit who won something like thirty-three races straight, yet no one claimed the horse off of the late Heni Filion because he had the worst knees around and people were afraid to claim off of him figuring the horse would fall apart.  Filion got to race him in the cheapest claiming classes and kept picking up those checks. 

 Yes, Pena's record wasn't that great the last few years at Cal Expo but when you are working with a bunch of $2,500 claimers it is much harder to keep them sound.  When you  get better horses, you look better.

I am not saying Pena is honest or not.  I just want to point out there is an alternate opinion amongst some of his racing peers and it is not unanimous that he is a crook.  As for the case regarding exclusion, the fact is a private track has the right to toss a driver or trainer just because they want to.

Update: reports that attorney Jeffrey Pocaro filed for Lightning Lane Stables, a patron of Pena, in friend of the court brief on the 6th of January a motion asking that the Judge make a decision promptly as some late closing series required entries by January 10th and 11th and if a decision was not made in the favor of the plaintiffs, they would suffer immediate financial hardship.  Being no decision has been rendered, it would appear that it did not influence the judge.  One Pena charge, Big Bay Point has been transfered to trainer J. Robinson from the Pena barn to compete in the Presidential on Saturday as has Rockrockwhosthere who is competing in the Clyde Hirt series.

There is a lawsuit involving Lebanon Raceway over the tragic fire two years ago, where three owners are suing for $500,000 for the loss of their horses, equipment and future earnings.  As much as I love horses, the fact is horses are considered property and if owners are concerned about the risk of loss, they should be taking out insurance on their horses.  Virtually any application for racing at a track, indemnifies the racetrack from any responsibility as to what happens to the horse owner's property


Anonymous said...

This whole thing reminds me of the baseball steroid scandal. Somehow magically as Barry Bonds aged into his late 30s his head swelled up like a balloon and the baseballs started flying out of the park at an unprecedented rate (as it did for others as well). There was no steroid testing so they were innocent right? Fast forward a few years and we know have what is acknowledged as the "steroid era" of baseball. If Pena was clean he could easily document his "new shoeing/training methods" for the whole world to see. Where do these new shoes come from? What are they made of? What shoes was horse X wearing before he was claimed and what is he wearing now? He doesn't do that because that isn't why the horses improve so much. Sadly at some point we will have the "harness racing drug era", if the sport survives that long. The only reason I do feel badly for Pena however is that he takes the rap for a whole industry.

Pacingguy said...

As I said, I published this just as a counter point to the assumed guilt of Pena.

First of all, if Pena found a legal trianing edge, a special show, etc. Why should he be forced to let the world know about it. If he told the NJRC his secret, would he be assured his legitimate secret be kept secret or would he lose his edge when others found out about it?

That being said, I do agree with you. If he is guilty, he is taking the blame for those who can easily be sitting in his place.

Anonymous said...

He shouldn't be forced to show his methods. But he could, and therefore possibly put this whole thing to rest. Same as Bonds, etc. could have given us their "workout regiments". But they couldn't for obvious reasons. That's why I drew the parallel.

Anonymous said...

Many of you short minded people forget a driver trainer by the name of Joe Anderson who moved his successful stable and talent from CA to IL where be became top conditioner for years before being forced out of the state by the political whores of government. His methods have been proven successful for years, although being caught on several minor violations he still returned and maintained top conditioner. Many conditioners would rather sit in the back-stretch and tip a bottle rather than put in the extra time to properly care for their horses and those that are successful are called cheats and thieves because of jealousy and fear of losing owners.

Pacingguy said...

Anon, just to set the record straight, I looked at Pathways, and it appears Joe Anderson had more than a "few" minor violations in his career.