07/09/2012 5:57PM

O’Neill to drop appeal of ban

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Doug O’Neill said he will likely serve his suspension during the Del Mar and Fairplex meets.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Trainer Doug O’Neill intends to drop an appeal of a 45-day penalty for a total carbon dioxide overage from the 2010 Del Mar meeting, he said on Monday.

O’Neill has held recent discussions with the California Horse Racing Board regarding the dates of the suspension, which O’Neill said are likely to be mid-August to the end of September, covering the last weeks of the Del Mar meeting and the entire Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Fairplex Park.

The dates of the suspension are expected to be announced by the racing board in the near future.

In May, the racing board announced the 45-day suspension and said the penalty would begin after July 1, offering no other specific start time. O’Neill was the leading trainer at the 2011 Fairplex Park meeting.

O’Neill said on Monday that high legal fees discouraged him from pursuing an appeal. In May, he said he intended to fight the decision.

“Basically, my option of going to an appellate court and getting a stay is not where I want to spend my money and time,” he said. “What I’m going to do is to take the days. It would be extremely expensive.

“It looks like I’ll take days during Del Mar.”

O’Neill, who won this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with I’ll Have Another, was suspended 180 days and fined $15,000 for the 2010 overage, but 135 days of the suspension was stayed provided that the trainer did not have any violations of drugs in classes 1, 2, or 3 for an 18-month period.

O’Neill was penalized after Argenta, who finished eighth in the sixth race at Del Mar on Aug. 25, 2010, tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide, 37 millimoles. The trainer has disputed the results of the test.

“Though I don’t agree with the board, not everything in life is perfect,” O’Neill said. “I don’t agree with them, but I respect them.

“I’m far from perfect. We’re going 110 miles per hour virtually seven days a week, trying to be on top. This will give me an opportunity to step back, calm down and relax. This will give me a chance to help my barn be held to a higher standard. Winning the Derby, we should be held to a higher standard. I want to put my energy into that.”

During his absence, assistant trainer Leandro Mora will run the stable.
O’Neill will not be permitted at the races or in the stable during the penalty time.

“Leandro Mora will be running this barn,” O’Neill said. “Anything that is ready to run, and there is a proper race and they’re ready to run, they’ll run. Everything will continue to run.

“It’s something I wish I didn’t have to do. It will give me a chance to pause and see ways that I can improve.”