Expect Danny Romo to create a little slice of his own harness racing history at Truro in Nova Scotia on Sunday (June 17) when he has seven chances to notch up his 3,500th driving success.
The 59-year-old Canadian has worked hard for everything he has achieved in the sport. In fact he's given 41 years of his life driving ($5.4 million) and training (816 wins and $2.1 m) but he believes with success in harness racing sadly there comes suspicion.
"I feel sorry for people like Lou Pena. We are the only sport that doesn't praise success but instead people, including officials, often think ‘what's he or she using?'
"The drugs Lou was using were no different to what I use, but out here we have a 48-hour time-line. He never got caught using drugs, the only difference to me is that he was operating under a different time-line," Shubenacadie-based Romo said.
Romo was referring to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board suspending Pena last month for 1,700 equine drug violations in nearly 700 races.
"I think it's a bit tough. He's been rail-roaded and that is sad. We should be embracing winners and promoting them in our sport but instead they are immediately put under suspicion. It's not right.
"Other sports don't do that and neither should we. The man was not caught cheating,"said Roma who hopes to one day achieve 4,000 career wins.
Director of Racing at Cal Expo in Northern California, David Elliott, agreed saying he felt sorry for Pena.
"Being from out west we know how good a trainer and driver Lou Pena is. I think the industry as a whole needs to take a look at this example and look at new types of administration and a closer scrutiny of vet records.
"There wouldn't be a trainer in the world not using what he gave his horses. There was no positive test meaning what Lou did was therapeutic.
"We have been running the meet for four years here and I don't know of any positives that Lou has here. His family is here but you have to remember Lou races in the East.
"He's a great family man and very charitable. I couldn't imagine him being a cheat,"Elliott said.
He then referred to Pena's $15,000 donation to the Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation last November.
He also gave his wining purse to the Foundation when his Phipps won at cal-Expo last August.
"Lou Pena is absolutely phenomenal. What other young man steps forward and supports something like epilepsy research? He's just unbelievable with his generosity and kindness," said Foundation founder Mary Lou Sordi.
Elliott said he was pleased with the way drug testing procedures were carried out at his track and it was a shame that vet records had cost Pena.
"I think it might have been done to prove a point. Who knows, they are out East and we are out West. All I want to do is ensure that we all learn from this.
"It's also very sad for Lou because we know how good a horseman he is. I think they made an exceptional circumstance for him.
"This is unfortunate for everyone," Elliott said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)