09/26/2012 3:22PM

Santa Anita notes: O'Neill returns after 40-day suspension

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Tom Keyser
Doug O'Neill has six entrants in five of the nine races on Friday’s program at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Trainer Doug O’Neill returns to work Friday after serving a 40-day suspension for a 2010 medication violation. The end of the suspension coincides with Friday’s opening day of the Santa Anita autumn meeting.

O’Neill may have been gone for more than a month, but his stable was highly active. Led by assistant trainer Leandro Mora, the barn won 10 races in the final weeks at Del Mar and won with 15 of 96 starters overall racing throughout the nation.

O’Neill was suspended for 180 days and fined $15,000 in May for a total carbon dioxide overage at Del Mar in 2010. At the time, the California Horse Racing Board announced that 135 days of the suspension would be stayed, provided that O’Neill did not have any violations of drugs in classes 1, 2, or 3 for an 18-month period, through November 2013.

After discussions with the racing board in early July, O’Neill agreed to drop an appeal of the suspension, citing the desire to avoid high legal fees. His time penalty was reduced by the racing board from 45 days to 40. The suspension ended Thursday.

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Earlier this week, O’Neill was more interested in talking about the stable’s future than the suspension. The suspension tarnishes what has been a career-best year for O’Neill. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for the first time earlier this year with I’ll Have Another, who has since been retired.

“All of this stems from something that happened a few years ago,” he said. “I’ve got to get it behind me and look forward to much better.

“We should have a good start back. I’ve been in the penalty box. The whole crew did a good job.”

O’Neill, 44, has six entrants in five of the nine races on Friday’s program, including Boxeur des Rues and Mensa Heat in the $100,000 Eddie D Stakes.

He has leading candidates in two of the five Grade 1 races at Santa Anita on Saturday. He starts Richard’s Kid in the Awesome Again Stakes over 1 1/8 miles and Know More in the FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles.

Richard’s Kid was third in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 26.

“He can run on any track,” O’Neill said. “We’re excited to see him compete.”

Know More won his debut in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in August and was second in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 5.

The stable’s list of Breeders’ Cup hopefuls also includes Handsome Mike, who won the Pennsylvania Derby for Mora at Parx Racing last weekend and is a candidate for the $1 million BC Dirt Mile on Nov. 3.

Brother Francis preps for Dirt Mile

The 3-year-old colt Brother Francis can move closer to a start in the BC Dirt Mile with a win in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles Friday.

Trainer James Cassidy considered stakes such as Friday’s Eddie D Stakes on the hillside turf course or the Grade 2 Arroyo Seco Mile on Oct. 6, but wants to start Brother Francis on the main track.

“I worked him on the turf, and I think he’s a better horse on the main track,” Cassidy said.

Owned by Norman Cheng, Brother Brancis has 1 win in 7 starts, a maiden race by six lengths at Del Mar on Aug. 5. Third in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity last December, Brother Francis was third in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on turf Sept. 2.