05/22/2012 3:01PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: O'Neill case set to go before California Horse Racing Board

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Barbara D. Livingston
Doug O'Neill, the trainer I'll Have Another, will be the subject of a case before the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday.

While I’ll Have Another has settled in at Belmont Park in preparation for a Triple Crown bid in the 144th Belmont Stakes on June 9, his trainer, Doug O’Neill, will have his attention redirected Thursday clear across the country to Betfair Hollywood Park, where the California Horse Racing Board, at its scheduled monthly meeting, will take the next step in a case that potentially could result in O’Neill being suspended for six months.

O’Neill in the summer of 2010 was cited by the racing board for having his horse Argenta test for a high level of total carbon dioxide – TCO2 – following an eighth-place finish in a race at Del Mar. O’Neill has vigorously fought the charge. He filed a federal lawsuit that was dismissed by a trial judge, and that decision was confirmed by an appeals court.

At the meeting Thursday – O’Neill’s 44th birthday – the board, during closed, executive session, will debate the proposed decision of a hearing officer that presided over the case for the racing board. The board members received an information packet in advance of the meeting, but are not allowed to discuss the situation until meeting in closed session Thursday.

There are numerous outcomes Thursday. The board has the option of adopting, modifying, or even rejecting the proposed decision, which could range from finding O’Neill innocent to a 180-day suspension. O’Neill is eligible for the lengthy suspension because of two prior TCO2 rulings against him.

There is even the possibility that nothing will be announced Thursday, because racing board members have the option of asking for additional information, or even taking over the case and hearing it themselves. All those options are contained in the state’s racing regulations.

Last week, Mike Marten, a spokesman for the board, said that even if there is a penalty – and he does not know what the hearing officer has proposed, nor what the board will decide – the penalty would not interfere with O’Neill participating in the Belmont.

O’Neill said he has spent $250,000 fighting this charge and says he has never given a horse a “milkshake,” the euphemism for the concoction cited by racing authorities as being the most likely reason for a high TCO2 test. O’Neill has argued that other factors can cause high test results.

“I know we played by the rules,” O’Neill said. “I’m confident that, in the end, this is going to come out right.”

Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
It's a shame that now... thursday after their findings that despite IHA's talent.. once again we have a black-eye because some greedy trainer cheated... these tests are very specicif..taken by professionals and examined by professionals. there's no excuse for a horse testing positive for high levels of any performance inhancing susstance. reguarless of him as a person outside of racing he has shown his greed and unwillingness to accept responsibility for its consequences.. sorry to all his connections and especially to the courage and talent of IHA..
David LaKari More than 1 year ago
If O'Neill has had horses in the past test positive for drugs or any other infraction then how do we know that he isn't doing something illegal and if he is deemed guilty then a has to pay the fiddler with a suspension. Another thing that I have been asking myself is why all of a sudden has I'll Have Another drastically improved over his 3-year old competition...hopefully it isn't a milkshake that has improved IHA performances.
Andy More than 1 year ago
I would think the Triple Crown trail and especially the actual TC races have the most stringent drug testing policy to protect the integrity and history of the Triple Crown.
ANNA More than 1 year ago
To the CHRB Executive Board: This message is to request that you please adhere to the CHRB Mission Statement and exercise due diligence during your deliberations tomorrow, May 24th, 2012 in the closed session of the monthly Board meeting regarding the pending litigation case involving trainer Doug O'Neill: "The mission of the California Horse Racing Board is to ensure the integrity, viability, and safety of the California horse racing industry by regulating pari-mutuel wagering for the protection of the public, promoting horse racing, breeding, and wagering opportunities, and fostering safe racing through the development and enforcement of track safety standards and regulations for the health and welfare of all participants." After all, in the USA a person is still presumed innocent until proven guilty in any court of law. Combine this fact with the notion of common sense and logic. It makes no sense that a person such as Mr. O'Neill, who loves his profession and the horses under his care, would commit this act in the first place and jeopardize his entire career and livelihood for one purse - and the horse he allegedly tampered with came in 8th in that race back in 2010! Also, Mr. Doug O'Neill has spent over 250K in legal costs since this "alleged" offense to fight to prove his innocence over the past 2 years. Does it make logical sense to any of you that a guilty person would spend this kind of money to fight for their right to be fairly adjudicated if in fact they were truly guilty of this TCO2 violation??? I think not. In the interest of protecting Mr. O'Neill's Constitutional rights, I implore you all to use due diligence in your decision-making process regarding this case. The CHRB does have the latitude to exercise your discretion and to come to a final resolution in lieu of the proceedings to date and the findings of Hearing Officer Steffan Imhof. His findings are just one person's opinion. To use an analogy, any sensible person who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease will always seek another opinion. I suggest you give Mr. O'Neill the same consideration in your deliberations of this case tomorrow. The TCO2 reading could have resulted from the feed or have just been a “false positive”. It happens. And yes, Mr. O’Neill has had positive tests in the past, but that still does not make him guilty of any infraction unless proven to be factual. He undoubtedly did not want to throw any money or time into the prior allegations. His focus is on his barn and the horses under his care – not getting tied up in court with potentially unfounded CHRB allegations of misconduct. CHRB Counsel has the time for court because that is what they are paid for (via CA State funding). However, Mr. Doug O’Neill has other obligations to fulfill to his family and profession and therefore should not have to come under such scrutiny unless it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. At the very least, please come to some type of "path forward" for the sake of the CHRB's credibility which seems to be severely lacking and deteriorating in the public’s perspective. The sport of horseracing in California needs for the CHRB to stand up in a positive light and come to a decision to take no further action against Mr. O'Neill regarding this matter. The 2012 Triple Crown series, with the first three finishers in the Preakness being CA based, has provided a glimmer of positive hope for the future of horseracing in California. Please don't let this glimmer of hope die with poor decision-making on your part. I implore you all to embrace the CHRB Mission Statement of "...promoting horseracing..." and do the right thing. After all, this is why the CHRB exists – to promote horseracing in California, not take it down with unfounded allegations that have not been vetted to be conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
mike More than 1 year ago
Again yes he uses meds for better performance-but you still need to train them!He is a trainer 1st-rule breaker 2nd-but shame on racing-this is not the time or place-he does not use any special drugs or vets than anyone else-
JDS0810 More than 1 year ago
Randall, Did Rick Dutrow "disrespect KY" when he juiced Big Brown? Why all of this hatred toward Doug O'Neill because he is having success? It sounds like some are a little bitter that the CA horses ran 1,2,3 in the Preakness... LOL.
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
Steroids were LEGAL in Kentucky when Dutrow gave them to Big Brown. You are comparing apples and oranges.
Jack More than 1 year ago
This is a "DIRTY GAME" and it NEEDS to be cleaned up REAL fast or it will GO in the SAME direction as Harness Racing, Everyone KNOWS harness racing is all but fixed . When a guy like Roger Stein (the worst trainer in throughbred history" Becomes the top trainer, you KNOW the game is RIGGED. What this game needs is a REAL crack down. or Management BE FORCEDto FURNISH each customer with a DRUG chart that will tell the Race goer what his Horse is on TODAY and how BUZZED is the Jockey Funny but REAL SAD....
Michael C. More than 1 year ago
WHAT are you TALKING about?
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
You don't need to provide anyone with any list...just ban the drugs, like every other country. Then US-based horses may be able to compete again in international company. Right now they're embarassingly mediocre. Is sounds simple..but, unless those involved, trainers, owners, breeders, HBPA organizations, (all of whom have vested interests and want the status quo to continue), agree to this, nothing is going to happen. Unfortunately, getting the Israelis and Palestinians to sign a peace agreement might be easier.
JDS0810 More than 1 year ago
Steve Asmussen was falsely accused and publicly on HBO not long ago, do you people from KY remember that? If so, is it possible that with all of O'Neill's success that maybe someone was out to get him too? Consider all facts before you rush to judgment people, your opinions are slightly biased to say the least....
Randall More than 1 year ago
Stay in California you disrespected KY and the horse industry we love after the Derby. We may not have the weather or the beaches of southern CA; but rest assured Mr O'Neil you are not welcomed here.
Bob Adams More than 1 year ago
Please was it not one of Kentucky's own vets that was suspected of having a hand in the outcome of most of the Derby's, including the disqualification of Dancer's Image.
Rufus More than 1 year ago
Is there any question why, for years, Doug O'Neill was referred to by handicappers with the moniker "Drug" O'Neill?
Glenn Sorge More than 1 year ago
When a man, who happens to be highly influenced by his catholic upbringing, brings his kids to the racetrack most weekends, brings them up on the award podium or winners circle, and makes the statement "I swear on my children's eyes that I did not milkshake a horse", one can conclude that this person is pathological or being honest. I would invite anyone to get to know Doug as I have. Spend a day at the clubhouse or Frontrunners. Go to his barn at 4:30 AM six days a week, see how his team treats his horses as well as each other. Talk to any of the people associated with horse racing from the parking lot attendants to the owners of the tracks themselves and you will her the same thing over and over, Doug is a good man. There is no question in my mind about Doug's integrity. By his own admission he has on occasion run a horse a little to soon or to help fill a race but to find him guilty of these charges would be an injustice at the hands of the CHRB and jealous trainers , many who have horses lost by claim to Doug. This would shoot a whole in the heart of horse racing at a time when we need good stories like never before. Members of the CHRB know the truth about this man and what really happened. I urge them to come to the truthful decision and dismiss all charges against a man who is one of the best people I have known.
mrm More than 1 year ago
Maybe you should stop by unannounced later in the afternoon.
Ruth Hadden More than 1 year ago
I agree with you One hundred percent. Leave the alone. He and every trainer save maybe 1 or 2 have the same violations and non performance enhancing bit therapeutic.