06/19/2008 12:00AM

O'Neill agrees to serve detention barn penalty


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Horses trained by Doug O'Neill began running out of a 24-hour pre-race detention barn at Hollywood Park on Thursday, ending a dispute stemming from an overage of bicarbonates found in one of his starters at Santa Anita earlier this year.

O'Neill, currently the leading trainer at the Hollywood Park meeting, had challenged the results of a test that showed that Chicks Rule, winner of a maiden claimer at Santa Anita in January, tested in excess of the permitted level of bicarbonates, or total carbon dioxide.

According to attorney Tony Scott, O'Neill asked for a stay of the detention barn penalty in early May so that the case could be reviewed. According to Scott, O'Neill requested the stay from the Thoroughbred Owners of California, which oversees a contractual agreement with the racetracks to enforce a detention barn policy when trainers have horses test in excess of the permitted level of bicarbonates. The presence of excessive bicarbonates is thought to increase stamina.

Scott said O'Neill was under the impression that he was being given a stay to review evidence in the case until he was recently informed otherwise.

"To keep Hollywood Park happy and not cause trouble, we're voluntarily going into a protection barn," Scott said in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"We want a review of the evidence. We think it may not be warranted. The reason Doug did it now is to cooperate and that there is no misunderstanding. As of May 5, we were under the understanding there was a stay. Doug has never refused to cooperate with anyone."

O'Neill horses will race out of a detention barn for 60 days. The penalty will be in effect through the final month of the Hollywood Park meeting, which ends on July 13, and for most of the Del Mar meeting, which runs from July 16 to Sept. 3.

O'Neill was cited for a similar infraction in 2006 when his horses were sequestered in a pre-race detention barn for a 30-day period.

O'Neill and TOC president Drew Couto were not available for comment early Thursday afternoon.

The TOC and Hollywood Park disagreed in recent weeks about the detention barn policy.

The two sides are parties to a 2005 contract that states that the track would provide detention barn space in the event of bicarbonate overages. In the past, Couto has said that the contract should be enforced against O'Neill while Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said last week that the matter should be directed to the California Horse Racing Board.

O'Neill still faces a possible sanction from the racing board regarding the Chicks Rule overage. A hearing has not been scheduled. The $16,200 winner's share of the purse from that race was ordered redistributed earlier this year.

Surf Cat will miss Gold Cup

Surf Cat, a six-time stakes winner and the third-place finisher in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on May 31, will miss the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 28 because of a bruised foot, trainer Bruce Headley said.

Headley said that the injury kept Surf Cat from training for two days at a time when he was expected to have a key workout for the Gold Cup. Headley said that Surf Cat will be pointed to the $300,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 19.

Surf Cat has since returned to racetrack training and was scheduled to have a three-furlong workout at Santa Anita on Friday.

Owned by Marsha Naify and Bruce's wife, Aase, Surf Cat has won 9 of 19 starts and $955,420. A 6-year-old, Surf Cat won the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap here on April 26.

The Gold Cup has eight probable starters, led by Heatseeker, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Californian. Other probable starters are Big Booster, defending champion Lava Man, McCann's Mojave, Perfect Drift, Racketeer, Student Council, and Tiago.

Go Between, second in the Big Cap, may be added to the field, trainer Bill Mott said earlier this week.

Rapidity favorably drawn

Rapidity, the winner of four consecutive races in 12 days in England in February, will attempt to win his first race in the United States in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

Trained by Jack Carava, Rapidity is making his second start in this country, having finished last of six in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes on May 18. In that race over seven furlongs, Rapidity broke slowly and raced on the inside, which Carava said did not suit the colt's style.

Carava insists that Rapidity is best when racing on the outside of horses. He has drawn the outside post in Saturday's five-horse field, which includes Gregorian Bay, who won an allowance race on May 26, and Pointing Star and By Spot, who were second in their last starts.

"I was happy when he drew the five-hole," Carava said. "Whatever happens, he'll be outside."

The optional claimer is the first race on a nine-race program.