Pena Files Lawsuit Over 'Big M' Barring

Published: January 6, 2012 11:36 am EST

According to a report, the Meadowlands Racetrack's 2011 leading trainer, Lou Pena, has filed suit against the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and Jeff Gural after the track opted to bar the conditioner from entering his horses at the famed East Rutherford, NJ oval


An article by John Brennan in The Bergen Record cites the lawsuit as stating that Pena has been banned from the track, "for no apparent reason other than that Pena is winning so many races."

The report states that Pena-trained horses have produced multiple post-race positive tests in the past, but that the New Jersey Racing Commission conducted a month-long investigation into Pena-trained horses in 2010. According to Pena's suit, the investigation saw blood pulled on 58 of Pena's charges, while his horses' feed and veterinary treatments were scrutinized as well. No major infractions were turned up from the probe.

The article quotes Gural, the new operator of the Meadowlands Racetrack, as saying that Pena is not the only trainer that has been barred from entering horses to race at the track.

(With files from The Bergen Record)



Couldn't agree more with John, Joe and Norm.If they let Mr.Pena back at the big m, I will never bet a nickle on this product again. It is impossible to handicap his horses and other 'super trainers' horses. I believe because of these 'super trainers' members of the betting public walked out of the track, moved on to some other form of gambling and never came back.

About zero tolerance. Not many getting caught with positive tests so it must be at zero tolerance now. LOL

It's easy to get sick of this sport with comments like some of the above, at least somebody is trying to make it tranparent.

Greg Parke

In reply to by fantom

laughable ?? what makes you such a expert sir ? Have you ever been in Mr.Pena's barn ? Mr.Pena is a world class horseman. If we suspend every trainer that has had a positive test ,there would be no trainers left.What you want is all the trainers that know how to win and have had a positive suspended.These are the guys you want suspended.Just the winners,not the trainers who lose and violate.Just the winners.You are very uninformed sir.

Some of the comments posted on here defending Mr. Pena as a great trainer are truly laughable. With all respect to everyone who posted I can't believe the naivety of some people who posted. You really want to make the argument that because some hasn't been caught cheating then they must not be cheating? Seriously? I can understand people who are concerned with the legalities of banning someone wihout a positive test. But as far as I understand it the Big M is now private and if a private owner does not want your business then that is his perogative.

And let's be clear here. The Big M and Gural were not the first to ban Mr. Pena. Yonkers did it first. I totally agree with Mr. Carters comments. Now as a gambler on horseracing of over 35 years, you can make the argument that from a betting standpoint it all comes out even in the wash. But that is not the point.

I would be the first to say get rid of ALL CHEATERS OF ALL STRIPES.INCLUDING DRIVERS WHO GIVE WHAT I WILL SIMPLY CALL VERY SHADY OR QUESTIONABLE DRIVES.LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD. If racing truly wants to survive it needs to have integrity. You can do all the fancy promotions and reduced take outs etc. This all means nothing if you are being cheated day in day out.

Gee Mr.Carter are you suggesting these "great trainers" are using some magic 3 second improvement training methods??

In reply to by duke77

I stand corrected McGwire was not involved with Balco but did testifie at the congressional hearings (March 17 2005) and refused to answer any questions " I'm not here to talk about the past" when asked about his steroid use.

Just to be clear Norm - and I'm not passing judgement on your comparison - Mark Mcgwire had nothing to do with the BALCO raid and court case.


I don't agree with your analogy Isaac, a better analogy would be comparing Gretzky to Somebeachsomewhere. Both showed greatness from early on and re-wrote the record books until they both retired.

A comparison that is more reflective to this situation would be Mark Mcgwire and Barry Bonds. I am sure a lot of insiders at that time were scratching their heads wondering what they were on and justifiably so. McGwire hit an average of 31 home runs a season in his first 14 years in the league until in 1998 hit a record breaking 70*. Barry Bonds averaged 28.2 homeruns a season for his first 15 years until he hit a record breaking 73* in 2001.

Both players had been tested for illegal substances which came up negative. It wasn't until the FBI raided a certain company in California called BALCO and uncovered files of their client base and the names of McGwire and Bonds did the cat come out of the bag. It took a Congressionnal Hearing on the Balco scandal to once and for all prove that they were both in fact on steroids. The drugs Bonds and McGwire were using were so far ahead of the curve that they were undetectable, there was no test for them at that time.

So if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck it is a duck. If he improves a horse by 3 seconds within a week then I have no doubt that it is a duck.

Several questions for Mr.Waxman. Lets just forget about Mr.Pena and just look at trainers in general. Do you believe that there are trainers out there that are cheating but just not getting caught and as long as they are not caught then what they are doing should be perfectly acceptable to one and all.

Next question how do you explain trainers that can't win a race, come from nowhere and suddenly dominate for a year or two and then all of a sudden can no longer win. Did they all just get tired of winning or perhaps just perhaps they were doing something they shouldn't and knew that authorities were starting to close in on them so they had to stop doing what they were doing. Happens a lot I could name many trainers who fit this profile but this wouldn't get posted.

Last but not least do you believe that public perception is not important, that it is just gamblers who are whining for one reason or another. So what they may think is not important, just win at all costs baby, that is all that should matter?

I just don't get it, how could any track in Canada or the U.S. ban a trainer for no other reason than rumors, back stretch innuendos, or because they just don't like that person.
If the trainer is found guilty using a prohibitive substance on a horse then throw the book at them,bar them from racing and kick them out of every race track.
Bring the evidence to the table,make it public and I'll support this. I will not support any other action that hides behind jealous accusations and bans a trainer without proper evidence.
In my opinion this action is not only unfair to Mr.Pena it's totally unfair to any trainer that makes a living in horse racing.

Steve R.

I see where Gural is coming from because he is trying to promote the sport to keep it going and he gets calls to get this guy out of the sport. For the most part those requests and or calls are coming from the trainers and owners that are sick of getting beat by Pena. Why didn't the commission for the NHL boot Gretzky out when he kept scoring goals because he must have been using something. Too bad that the other NHL players didn't put in more complaints on #99 and unfairly change the outcome of a season for no other reason other than jealousy and to get higher paying contracts, but of course In a real sport this would never happen. I think the more bans they put on trainers the more unsteady and unprofessional this sport becomes. I think the trainers that don't get results on a consistent basis should be called in to the judges before the winners.

Sure there are horsemen/trainers with owners with deeper pockets than others therefore they have the opportuinty to train not only a higher quality but a much larger quantity of racehores which leads those trainers to post big numbers year after year. Sure some trainers are going to put big numbers in terms of wins and money earned, however if anyone out there thinks that any trainer no matter who they are is that much better than anybody else (especially at the big tracks...WEG, Yonkers, Meadowlands, Chester, Dover, etc..) that they can on a consistent basis win 40 or 50% of their starts, they in fact need to be tested!!!!! Once again give me a break...claim a horse for 12k from a "good" trainer and win the open 3 weeks a horse privately for 25K and six weeks later win a $250,000 stake race...etc.. Sure it happens every of couple of years, maybe once or twice to a good trainer in his career not every month to the same "great" trainers.

It's his business. he has to take care of & he happens to belive a trainer who has a past history of positives, who has an ungodly training average on the toughest circuit there is, when he was just "average" or below for his whole career, who in a week can turn a 40-50 claimer into the fastest horse of the year & vastly improve claimed horse after horse in just days over "very good" just bad for his business & I agree!

Lou Pena is a success story whose accomplishments should be celebrated and not the basis for restricting his right and privilege to race at the Meadowlands. In the absence of any untoward acts his winning percentage as a trainer should be treated no differently than any other trainer who is equally successful. To put it another way, why ban Mr. Pena when others who are just as successful face no adverse consequence? Mr. Pena's lawsuit should shed some light on this question.

Larry Sulton, PhD

How a guy with no serious positive tests can be banned is scary. Trainers beware, dont try to win every start, you will be banned if you win too much. Would management rather trainers just pick their spots to win and trip their horses the other starts? Seems those guys upset the gamblers more.... As a bettor I think joe public loves trainers like lou, they can bet and know horses are ready.

In reply to by ken h

Would that Zero Tolerance Rule include Lasix? It should. If there was testing that could keep up with the chemists, a fully enforced ZTR would weed out the trainers who are enhancing their horses. I'm not naive enough to believe that there are those amongst our "top trainers" that are not using something other than good horsemanship/management. Even one of the top trainers in the world got caught with a positive for prohibitive drugs in a top quality horse not too long ago. We've also seen the world's top jumper/dressage trainers, riders get caught using illegal drugs to improve their horses in the show ring. Please, don't give us this nonsense about top trainers not needing to cheat because they are "world class" horse people.

Perhap's Gural should have shown real leadership and banned all trainers with a postive test occurring at the Meadowlands. I dare say there would be a several top trainers no longer stabled there.

What all the top trainers should do is go to the commision and ask for a ZERO TOLERANCE RULE to all drugs.Thats right Mr.Pena,and all other hi percentage trainers.This is WHY, What all you hi percentage trainers should realize is that you will all still win the majority of the races as you do now.I have never met Mr.Pena but watched him operate in California when I was a young man.This man is a world class horseman.Thats why he will still win if there was a ZERO tolerance rule in effect.As a trainer who competes at WEG,you must do 10 things out of 10 right, all week and the day of the race you have to do 10 for 10 to win.The problem is if you go zero tolerance you have to enforce it .If it is enforced to the max,THE SAME GUYS WILL CONTINUE TO WIN.This is in fact because they are all great horseman.So guys get smart and get togeather and get on board with the commission.If they want drug free racing,give it them.The problem is enforcing it.Its a lot easier to enforce a zero tolerance as apposed to this drug is legal this one isn't.My bet is the same guys will keep on winning.The only difference is, you wont be hounded by investigators and have the threat of losing your business at any time .
You trainers that cant win now still wont win.And if guys like Pena and others get smart and go zero tolerance,it will make no difference to your winning percentage.I guess you will have to blame it on the weather when guys like Pena keep appearing in the winner circle and not you.
Get Smart Guys, give them what they want.Just make sure its enforced and You and your family will all be better off for it.ZERO TOLERANCE , should be the way of the future.

C.Renon This post will likely not be posted as my last one was censored beyond belief. As far as i know in North America you are innocent till proven guilty,there is a constitution or charter of rights and there is freedom of speech. As long as a trainer has a valid license he should be able to practice his trade ANYWHERE in that State or province. Don't hide behind private land acts and ban legal participants from these events and shame on the governing bodies not to act on this.

I'm sure that with Mr Pena and others not being allowed to enter horses, the remaining " choir boys " will be 100 perecent honest (LOL). I'm sure that Mr Gural has good intentions with his plans, but not including certain individuals is not going to improve the racing product or betting handle.

I think Mr.Gural thinks like many others do, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it is a duck or we could use another saying if it looks to good to be true it usually is. So the million dollar question is, is Mr.Pena doing anything wrong or is he doing something and getting away with it because he is staying one step ahead of the tests. Like that has never happened before. I would name, names but it wouldn't get posted. I guess we have to recognize the possibility that his brand of feed and water is far superior to everybody else's and the way he jogs horses is just so superior to the way everybody else does it. No Mr.Pena may be getting a bad rap when it's probably no more complicated then him being tons the best.

I see no reason for him to be banned. He has raced at The Meadowlands the past few years and has had no infractions and has been not been found guilty of anything but winning races after a major investigation trying to find something on him came up empty.

Barns with replacement trainers taking the place of currently suspended trainers who have had multiple recent positives have no problem entering and are welcomed. Another trainer who was just evicted from a track has horses racing there this weekend.

We have heard other trainers have been banned but for some reason no names have been mentioned.

Gary Blackburn

Mr. Pena has a valid license to race in New Jersey, is not under suspension so what grounds do they have to ban him from racing there?