04/27/2010 11:00PM

Mullins banned 30 days, O'Neill 15


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Prominent trainers Jeff Mullins and Doug O'Neill have each been given a suspension and fine by state regulatory agencies after each had a starter test in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide.

According to a statement released Wednesday by the California Horse Racing Board, Mullins has been suspended 30 days, beginning May 9, and fined $2,500 after Pathbreaking, the third-place finisher in the third race at Del Mar on Aug. 3, 2008, had a total carbon dioxide level of 37.9 millimoles per liter, above the regulatory threshold of 37 millimoles.

Mullins could face a further suspension since the overage occurred at a time when he was on probation.

O'Neill has been suspended for 15 days - from Monday through May 17 - and fined $1,000 after Stephen's Got Hope, who finished seventh in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, on April 3, tested in excess of the permitted carbon dioxide level, according to a stewards' ruling released by the Illinois Racing Board last Friday. Stephen's Got Hope's postrace test was 37.8 millimoles. Illinois has a threshold level of 37 millimoles per liter.

Even though O'Neill's positive occurred in Illinois, California will recognize the penalty as part of a reciprocity arrangement between state regulatory agencies. O'Neill did not return a phone call on Wednesday seeking comment.

Carbon dioxide overages may reflect the residue of baking soda in a horse's system. Baking soda is used in what is known in backstretch parlance as a milkshake, which is thought to increase stamina.

Mullins may appeal his case, according to his attorney, Karen Hughes, who argued the overage should have resulted in a fine of $1,500.

"I think we have to" appeal, she said on Wednesday. Mullins deferred comment to Hughes.

The Pathbreaking case was heard last summer by hearing officer Steffan Imhoff, who recommended the suspension and fine to the racing board in March. The racing board commissioners adopted the fine and suspension last month.

Pathbreaking's overage occurred while Mullins was on probation for a 2006 medication violation when one of his runners, Rob's Coin, tested in excess of the permitted level of the anesthetic mepivacaine. Mullins was suspended for 90 days, with 70 days stayed if he did not have any penalties for medications in Classes 1, 2, or 3 during a one-year probationary period. Mullins served 20 days of that suspension in early 2008.

The Pathbreaking overage, a Class 3 violation, occurred during the probationary period.

In its decision last month, the racing board did not adopt Imhoff's proposal that Mullins's suspension run concurrently with any additional time penalty related to the suspension from the Rob's Coin overage. Instead, the racing board indicated in a statement on Wednesday that it will instruct a state deputy attorney general to "proceed expeditiously" to conduct a hearing and seek further penalties against Mullins for violating the probation.

The case will be heard by a racetrack board of stewards, but has not been scheduled.

O'Neill, 41, has won 23 training titles, most recently at the 2009 Los Angeles County fair meeting at Fairplex Park. He is best known as the trainer of seven-time Grade 1 winner Lava Man.

Mullins, 47, has won 11 training titles, most recently finishing in a tie at the 2007 Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Last year, he trained Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, who was the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby but was scratched on the day of the race because of injury.