Sports
7:54 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Derby Winning Trainer O'Neill Suspended By California Racing Board

INGLEWOOD, Cal. - Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another, was suspended 45 days as a result of one of his horses exceeding the allowable limit for total carbon dioxide.

The punishment won't begin before July 1, ensuring he will be able to saddle his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The suspension comes in the midst of I'll Have Another's bid to become horse racing's first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. The colt trained by O'Neill won the Derby at odds of 15-1 and then the Preakness last Saturday.

The California Horse Racing Board met in a closed session Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., to consider the recommended decision of a hearing officer in O'Neill's case.

O'Neill was cited by the racing board after his horse Argenta tested for a high level of TCO2 in its blood after finishing eighth in a race at Del Mar on Aug. 25, 2010. TCO2 is associated with "milkshaking," a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes that enhances performance and combats fatigue.

The hearing officer agreed with O'Neill that the evidence showed Argenta had not been milkshaked, so it was not the cause of the TCO2 overage.

He also found there were no suspicious betting patterns in the race and that there was no evidence of any intentional acts on the part of O'Neill in connection with the incident.

However, before the hearing, the parties had stipulated that the Maddy Laboratory at UC Davis detected an excess level of TCO2 in the horse's blood sample, and CHRB Rule 1887 holds a trainer to be ultimately responsible for the condition of a horse.

Based on that rule and mitigating factors, the hearing officer recommended that O'Neill should be suspended for 45 days, with an additional 135 days stayed for 18 months, provided the trainer commits no further Class 1, 2 or 3 violations in any state. The officer also recommended a $15,000 fine.

The racing board agreed with the recommendation. CHRB executive director Kirk Breed will decide when O'Neill's suspension will begin, but it will be no sooner than July 1