06/26/2010 11:00PM

O'Neill drops appeal of suspension


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer Doug O'Neill said Friday that he has dropped an appeal of a 15-day suspension for a total carbon dioxide overage in Illinois in April. The penalty will run from Wednesday through July 14.

While sidelined, O'Neill said his stable will not be active until he returns to training July 15. Through Friday, O'Neill led all trainers with 26 wins, six more than second-place Mike Mitchell. O'Neill's suspension is likely to prevent him from winning the training title at the spring-summer meeting, which ends July 18.

O'Neill said the decision to drop the appeal was based on the financial obligations to challenge the California Horse Racing Board in court. He made the decision Friday afternoon after speaking with his attorney, Steve Schwartz.

"I can't fight any more financially," O'Neill said. "I don't want to pursue any lengthy financial hits."

Last week, Hollywood Park stewards Scott Chaney, Kim Sawyer, and Tom Ward recommended to the racing board that O'Neill serve a 15-day suspension issued by the Illinios Racing Board earlier this year.

O'Neill also was fined $1,000, a penalty that was paid earlier this year, after Stephen's Got Hope tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide following a seventh-place finish in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 3.

O'Neill was granted a stay of the suspension from racing board chairman Keith Brackpool on April 29, allowing the trainer to protest that the suspension should not be served in California. Typically, a suspension in one state is honored in other state, but O'Neill and Schwartz argued against that in hearings before the stewards on May 23 and 30.

In the hearings, Schwartz argued that California has different rules for total carbon dioxide testing than Illinios and that other states had not honored the Illinois ruling's suspension.

In their six-page decision, the Hollywood Park stewards disputed those arguments and recommended that racing board officials assign dates for O'Neill's 15-day suspension.

"I don't agree with the results of the hearing," O'Neill said. "The infraction wasn't here."

O'Neill said he spent Friday afternoon consulting with his owners about the implications of the suspension and that a majority of them were not in favor of him running horses in the name of his assistant, Leandro Mora, during the suspension. O'Neill said the policy of having no runners also would apply to stakes horses, including Enriched in the $150,000 American Handicap on July 4.

The decision to not have runners is likely to impact Hollywood Park's fields. The track has struggled to draw sizeable fields in recent weeks and has even canceled two weekdays because of insufficient entries.

"I don't think I will" have any starters, O'Neill said. "They said they don't want me to run while I'm down. They said they don't feel comfortable with me not calling the shots."

Awesome Gem eyeing Gold Cup

Awesome Gem, the millionaire 7-year-old gelding, is being pointed to the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, trainer Craig Dollase told Hollywood Park publicity earlier this week.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Awesome Gem has won 6 of 35 starts and $1,974,682, with his most recent win coming in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup last October. Awesome Gem is winless in his last five starts, all stakes, but was second in the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 17 and second in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas on May 31.

Awesome Gem joins a list of six probable starters for the Gold Cup, which is led by West Coast handicap division leader Rail Trip. Other candidates are Brushburn, Compari, Sangaree, and Slew's Tiznow.