'There are better days ahead. I feel really good about the hearing - confident even. It went well. I have a smile on my face now'. Those were the very words from controversial American harness racing trainer Lou Pena following his three-day trial in New York on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week (August 29-31).
The long awaited hearing between the New York State Racing & Wagering Board (NYSRWB) and Pena was born in May in what was termed a comprehensive and ground-breaking investigation (with assistance from racing officials from New Jersey).
Pena was suspended immediately and indefinitely for illegally drugging horses in nearly 700 races in New York State and amassing more than 1,700 equine drug violations.
In addition to the immediate suspension, Pena faced a possible revocation of his license to participate in New York State and substantial fines of up to $25,000 per violation.
The Board's overall investigation into the matter has been on-going and actions include the recovery of more than $2.5 million in purse monies won with horses that were"illegally drugged".
As a result possible rule changes regarding access and disclosure of veterinary records are now on the cards.
Pena was delighted with the way the case progressed, saying it was rapt up quickly on the final day.
"I was never called to the stand. I was surprised by that. I thought they would have called me. I think that will count in my favour," Pena told Harnesslink.
The presiding Judge will take five to six weeks to review the case before he will recommend his decision to the NYSRWB before that Board has the final say.
The Californian horseman said he was pleased with the way his legal team presented his case.
"I was impressed with my two vet experts. One was from the University of Illinois and the other is a highly renowned chemist specialist. I thought they presented pretty compelling cases," Pena said.
"Anyone can speculate on anything and that is what the Board has done. Their case has been full of speculation since day one.
"I know I've done nothing wrong and I am confident my legal team have done enough to ensure my innocence.
"Now I just want to get back to doing what I love - and that's training racehorses," Pena said.
Pena said he was pleased that his case was being heard by a neutral people and not the Board.
"They were impartial and they now have all the facts. The truth will prevail in due time. I am looking forward to the outcome.
"Better days will come soon enough," Pena said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)