06/12/2012 1:01PM

O'Neill plans to contest 45-day suspension

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Barbara D. Livingston
“I’ll fight it until I can’t fight it anymore,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the suspension.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Trainer Doug O’Neill, who won this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I'll Have Another, plans to a contest a 45-day suspension issued by the California Horse Racing Board last month after one of his starters tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide in 2010.

The suspension was issued by the racing board May 24 following a seven-day hearing in 2011 and a decision released in April by administrative law judge Steffan Imhoff.

“I’ll fight it until I can’t fight it anymore,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill was suspended 180 days and fined $15,000 for the 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 a 18-month period.

The starting date of that probationary period was not announced. The racing board did not announce a starting date for the 45-day suspension, but said in May that it would not start before July 1.

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.

In his decision, Imhoff concluded that Argenta had not been “milkshaked,” or given a concoction designed to boost stamina.

Furthermore, Imhoff stated that there were no suspicious betting patterns to the race and “no evidence of any intentional acts on the part of O’Neill in connection with this incident,” according to a statement released by the racing board.

Both the racing board and O’Neill had stipulated that tests conducted by the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC-Davis showed an excessive amount of total carbon dioxide levels. Under the trainer insurer rule, in which the trainer is responsible for the well-being of horses in their care, O’Neill was found at fault, which led to the suspension and fine.

“The [administrative law judge] said he found no wrongdoing,” O’Neill said. “They have said it could have been Lasix, sweat, or feed. Those are things trainers can’t control. There’s no motive. The horse didn’t win. It’s ridiculous.”

O’Neill served a 15-day suspension in 2010 after Stephen Got Hope tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide after a seventh-place finish in the Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse.