06/30/2006 11:00PM

Court denies O'Neill plea

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A Los Angeles judge on Friday denied a request from trainer Doug O'Neill asking that he be allowed to run horses out of his own barn rather than a detention barn.

Since June 14, O'Neill has been forced to place his starters in a detention barn for 24 hours before they race because one of his horses tested in excess of the permitted levels of bicarbonates, or total carbon dioxide, in May.

The penalty was meted out according to an agreement between a consortium of California racetracks and horsemen's organizations. O'Neill's detention period lasts until July 13.

At Friday's hearing, O'Neill was represented by attorney Neil Papiano, who argued that O'Neill's horses should not be subject to a detention barn penalty because the trainer has yet to have a hearing with the California Horse Racing Board. O'Neill faces a possible fine or suspension from the racing board because of the recent test results.

According to Ed Halpern, the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, judge David Yaffe rejected that claim, saying that the agreement between trainers and the consortium regarding carbon dioxide levels is valid because Hollywood Park is on private

property. Halpern represented the consortium at Friday's hearing.

O'Neill expressed surprise at Yaffe's decision, but declined to comment. When the test results were revealed in June, he described the situation as "an embarrassment." Papiano was not available for comment.

Through Friday, O'Neill led all trainers with 25 wins at this meeting. Since his horses have started from the detention barn, O'Neill has won 6 races from 43 starters.