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Friday, May 25, 2012

Pop Quiz Time

With the racing world abuzz over the allegations against Lou Pena, where does harness racing go from here?  Let me offer the following quiz.

1.  You are taking friends who never have been to the track with you tonight.  Your friend brings up the local newspaper's article about the indefinite suspension of Lou Pena.  Do you...

   a)  Tell your friend that while the paper said 1719 violations of the rule, it really is only 675 races?
   b)  Proudly tell your friend that in 2010, only 16 positives for medication violations were found in NJ?
   c)  Shout for joy that harness racing finally got covered in the newspaper.
   d)  Look at your friend and just shrug your shoulders.  After all, what can you say?
   e)  Actually hope your friends cancel on you?

2.  How big a scandal do you think the allegations against Pena are?

   a)  Bigger than the alleged race fixing scandal was in Michigan/
   b)  Not that big a deal, like other incidents it will blow over in a couple of weeks.
   c)  See, there is an advantage to only a few people caring about caring about harness racing.

3.  There are a few trainers you suspect of not playing on a level playing field.  What do you think they are doing now?

   a)  Having an epiphany and will now train on the straight and narrow.
   b)  They are doing nothing different.
   c)  To paraphrase a current commercial, they are 'wondering what their vet has in their records'.
   d)  Finding a vet who keeps sloppy records

4.  What do you think of current drug testing?

   a)  The drug testing we currently have is fine.
   b)  It's not great, but you can't test for everything.
   c)  It clearly needs improvement.
   d)  Bring in the feds.

5.  What do you think about the $2.5 million in purse money the state alleges will need to be returned for redistribution?

    a)  Good luck collecting all that money back.
    b)  Glad the purses will be redistributed to the other horses in the race.
    c)  Wait, what about me the horseplayer?  What do I get?

6.  Do you think your racing commission is dong enough regarding bearding?

   a)  Absolutely.
   b)  Why does the racing commission care about who is growing beards?
   c)  Stop it!  It hurts me to laugh this hard..

7.  What do you think of the idea of suspending horses who come up positive?

   a)  It is wrong, as it may keep people away from owning horses.
   b)  Why should an owner be held liable for the wrongdoing of a trainer?
   c)  A great idea, but it will never happen.
   d)  It should be implemented right away.

8. What do you think an honest trainer (and there are plenty of them) will do as a result of this scandal?

   a)  A collective feeling like they have been sucker punched.
   b)  Time to get tough on cheaters.  Out with the code of silence!
   c)  Nothing.  It is the racetrack's and the racing commission's job to catch cheaters.
   c)  What drug are you on to even think anything will change?

There is no answer key, but based on your answers, you will see if you are an optimist, a realist, or a cynic when it comes to addressing the problem of illegal medication.

USTA Responds:  The USTA has suspended Lou Pena's membership in reciprocity to the action taken by the NYSRWB.


Jim H. said...

Being a layperson, I searched the why's and wherefor's of the medications listed on the Pena ruling. All appeared to have logical applications save for one: Factrel.

I don't get it. What benefit would factrel have on a race horse?

Also, there doesn't seem to be any magic bullet (e.g. some EPO of the sort). However, I am under the impression (and I don't know from where) that clenbuterol is best known as being a masking agent for humans; is it the same for our equine friends?

I'm mystified how this could go on without there being some kind of positive test. Do you have any or heard any coherent explanation?

As a final note: Didn't I read not all that long ago that you were going to scale back on your writings?

For one, I am happy to see that you haven't.

Anonymous said...

As bad as this looks for Pena and the image of harness racing, we still have no smoking gun. Does he use something illegal that makes the horses run faster and with more stamina than they ever had under different trainers?

It's pretty clear he cheated with legal drugs when they were administered too close to race day. I want to know the rest of the story, and are the racing commissions now ready to use vet records to catch others?

Pacingguy said...


Yes some of the drugs have legitimate uses, but are required to be withdrawn a certain period before a race as it can give the horse an unfair advantage over others.

Some drugs need to be withdrawn a certain time before a race because it may allow a horse to race when it shouldn't be (injury).

I am not an expert on drugs so I can't comment on each individual drug.

This is what I did find out about Factrel. In males it stimulates the secretion of testosterone by interstitial testicular cells. Obviously the horse needs to be an intact male.

I can't speak about the masking abilities of clenbuterol but it is used to allow a horse to breathe easier.

As to why testing doesn't catch everything? Some states don't test for everything due to monetary constraints, you can adminster a smaller amount to beat the threshold by the time testing takes place. Our testing stinks, all possible reasons.

There was a two week period I needed to cut back a bit due to other issues which needed to be adressed, obviously I am back to normal. I am glad you missed me.

Pacingguy said...


The use of clenbuterol does improve the performance of a horse. As to all the other drugs he used, I can't speak for as I am not qualified.

I suspect we will be seeing more use of vet records in the future.

I am reasonably sure as time goes on, more things will come out and make things clearer.

Harry Lare said...

All this shows me is the NYSRWB has a vets record. Is the vets records legit or is this a case of having two books? Show me some positives to prove that these legal drugs were administered illegally.
If the NYSRWB has nothing else then it shows me the sport/industry is corrupt from the top to bottom and everything in between. Like I didn't know that already.
Where are all the other trainer's vets records? or does this stop at Lou Pena?

Pacingguy said...


I am told the vet records is what nailed Fusco in NY.

It should be stated that as an administrative hearing, a racing commission does not have the same level of proof as required in a regular court. Therefore circumstantial evidence has a higher standard of acceptance in administrative hearings. They don't have to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt, they need to come to a conclusion that most reasonable people would come to.