Trainer Doug O’Neill vigorously denied giving one of his horses a performance-enhancing mixture that violated the rules. After a nearly two-year legal battle, California racing officials agreed with him while still finding fault because of a rule that says trainers are ultimately responsible for horses in their care.
The ban comes in the final weeks of I’ll Have Another’s attempt to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed 34 years ago. The colt trained by O’Neill won the Derby on May 5 and took the Preakness on Saturday.
The seven-member California Horse Racing Board met in closed session Thursday at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., to consider the recommended decision of a hearing officer in O’Neill’s case. The board agreed with the officer’s recommendations, which included the maximum punishment and fine – $15,000 – for the trainer, who turned 44 on Thursday.
While elevated carbon dioxide is associated with “milkshaking,” the officer agreed with O’Neill that his horse Argenta had not been fed a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes that enhances performance and combats fatigue. The officer did not indicate what might have caused the overage.
“I’m gratified that the CHRB found that I did not “milkshake” a horse or engage in any intentional conduct that would result in an elevated TC02 level,” O’Neill said in a statement. “I plan on examining and reviewing all of my options following the Belmont Stakes, but right now I plan on staying focused on preparing for and winning the Triple Crown.”
The suspension and fine, which O’Neill can appeal, comes at a time when racing is under heavy scrutiny for the way horses are prepared for their races.
- I’ll Have Another one win away – ESPN (espn.go.com)
- I’ll Have Another trainer faces violation hearing (espn.go.com)
- I’ll Have Another trainer says horse ready to go in Belmont, but Bodemeister is out (jacksonville.com)