06/13/2008 12:00AM

O'Neill won't put horses in detention


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Doug O'Neill, the leading trainer at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, has refused to have his starters placed in a detention barn for having a horse test in excess of the permitted level of bicarbonate, or total carbon dioxide.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California and the state's racetracks agreed in 2005 that trainers with carbon dioxide overages must have their horses placed in a detention barn for 24 hours before a race.

O'Neill cited the lack of a hearing for his decision, a position that has received the tacit support of Hollywood Park. The track has declined to enforce the agreement, even though it has done so in the past.

O'Neill, 40, was cited earlier this year after a post-race test revealed that Chicks Rule, the winner of a maiden claimer at Santa Anita on Jan. 17, tested in excess of the permitted level of total carbon dioxide. O'Neill's starters were scheduled to begin running out of the detention barn in late April for 60 days. O'Neill's runners were detained for 30 days in 2006 for a similar infraction.

"I'm fighting it until I get a judgement," O'Neill said. He said he was angered that he was "told to go into the detention barn without having a chance to fight the accusation."

The standoff has angered TOC officials who contend that they have an agreement with Hollywood Park for the track to enforce a detention barn policy.

"We have a contract with the racing association that required that horses be placed in a protection barn for the benefit of others owners and horses from that stable," TOC president Drew Couto said. "We intend to remind our track partners of this."

Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau said the California Horse Racing Board should handle the matter.

"While other people might think that racing board justice is not swift, it is due process," Liebau said. "We have to date had no discussions with the TOC about the matter."

Dr. Rick Arthur, the racing board's equine medical director, said the board could take action on the dispute if "someone files a grievance with the horse racing board that a contract has been violated. Until that happens, the CHRB will not be taking any action."

O'Neill still faces a possible sanction from the racing board for the excessive test. The $16,200 purse earned by Chicks Rule was redistributed earlier this year. At the time, O'Neill feared that Chicks Rule had been the victim of tampering.