Horse Racing Capsules: Trainer O'Neill suspended by Calif. racing board

NewsCelebrity/Rider NewsFriday 25 May 2012

Despite vigorously denying he gave one of his horses an illegal performance-enhancing mixture, trainer Doug O'Neill was suspended 45 days — a ban that won't take effect until after his superstar colt, I'll Have Another, tries to win the Triple Crown.

After a nearly two-year legal battle, California racing officials agreed with O'Neill but still found fault because of a rule that says trainers are ultimately responsible for horses in their care. The ruling Thursday doesn't prevent O'Neill from saddling his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The suspension and $15,000 fine — which O'Neill can appeal — come 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.

"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," O'Neill said in a statement.

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 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.

The penalty comes at a time when racing is under heavy scrutiny for the way horses are prepared for their races.

O'Neill said he spent $250,000 defending himself.

"I know I didn't milkshake a horse. None of us around the barn milkshaked any horses," O'Neill said Wednesday. "You got to have rules and I respect rules, but when you get faulty science involved, it costs a lot of money unfortunately, but you've got to fight it and that's what we're doing."

O'Neill was originally suspended 180 days by the racing board after Argenta tested in excess of the permitted level of TCO2 — a Class 3 violation — after finishing eighth in a race at Del Mar on Aug. 25, 2010. The horse is co-owned by Mark Verge, the CEO of Santa Anita race track and O'Neill's childhood friend.

But the hearing officer recommended that 135 days be stayed as long as O'Neill doesn't have any Class 1, 2 or 3 medication violations in any state during an 18-month period.

It was O'Neill's third total carbon dioxide violation in California and fourth in his career. In 2010, he was suspended and fined for a similar offense involving one of his horses that ran in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago.

The officer found there were no suspicious betting patterns in the 2010 race and that there was no evidence of any intentional acts on the part of O'Neill in connection with the incident.

However before the hearing, the parties had stipulated that the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC Davis detected an excess level of TCO2 in the horse's blood sample, and CHRB Rule 1887 states a trainer is ultimately responsible for the condition of a horse, so O'Neill was punished.

CHRB executive director Kirk Breed will decide when O'Neill's suspension will begin, but it will be no sooner than July 1.

The Jockey Club has said that elevated total carbon dioxide levels, regardless of cause, are violations of the rules and penalties for excessive TCO2 are severe. It urges trainers and their veterinarians to work closely to identify any procedure or practices that may elevate such levels in horses.

I'll Have Another takes another jog around Belmont

NEW YORK (AP) — Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another jogged around the 1½-mile Belmont Park oval for a second day in a row and is scheduled to resume galloping on Friday.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The colt's assistant trainer Jack Sisterson said Thursday "he gets over the track fantastic, he looked super, his energy level is high and he's doing everything we want to see him doing."

Sisterson said I'll Have Another will pick up the pace with a gallop on Friday.

The last horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont was Affirmed in 1978.

Also, Belmont contender Union Rags worked five furlongs on Thursday in 1:01 at Fair Hill, Md.

Bryant and Gasol's horse to run at Hollywood Park

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have partnered in owning a racehorse which will make its first start at Betfair Hollywood Park. The 4-year-old gelding named Siempre Mo is entered in Saturday's sixth race, a $54,000 allowance race. He will be ridden by Joy Scott.

The Los Angeles Lakers teammates purchased 25 percent of the gelding at a team charity auction in April. Part of their deal is that neither Bryant nor Gasol pay any expenses in the horse's care and training. Santa Anita CEO Mark Verge and Chris Quinn, also an executive at Santa Anita, are the horse's other owners.

Siempre Mo won a $25,000 claiming race in his last start. He's trained by Doug O'Neill, whose colt I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and will try to win the Triple Crown when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. Bryant and Gasol's horse will carry gold silks with a purple Lakers emblem and a purple cap.

Italian Rules wins Hollywood Park feature

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Italian Rules beat Indian Firewater by 3 1/4 lengths Thursday in the $75,742 feature at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Ridden by Kevin Krigger, Italian Rules ran six furlongs on the synthetic Cushion Track in 1:08.55, fastest at the distance during the spring-summer meet. Krigger was subbing for Joel Rosario, who remained in the Dominican Republic after attending the funeral of his brother who was killed in a car accident last weekend. Italian Rules paid $7, $3.60 and $2.40.

Indian Firewater returned $5.80 and $4 for trainer Bob Baffert. Live Sundays paid $5 to show. Baffert's other entry, Racing Aptitude, was fourth. Italian Rules has eight wins in 25 starts and career earnings of $397,940.

Chantal Sutherland won two races on the card with a pair of long shots.

N.Y. board suspends N.J.-based harness racing trainer

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) — New York racing regulators have indefinitely suspended a New Jersey-based harness horse trainer, saying he illegally drugged horses in nearly 700 races since 2010 and committed more than 1,700 violations.

The State Racing and Wagering Board says Thursday that trainer Luis "Lou" Pena could face revocation of his license, thousands of dollars in fines and forfeit of more than $2.5 million in purses won with the horses. Pena regularly raced horses in New York while stabling them in New Jersey, and officials from both states jointly reviewed veterinary records.

The board says most of the drugging involved races at Yonkers Raceway, but included some at the Saratoga and Tioga harness tracks. There was no phone listing for Pena's address in New Jersey. A hearing is set for Wednesday.

Silver Screamer wins Belmont feature

NEW YORK (AP) — Silver Screamer, the 9-5 favorite, held off Limonar by 1 3/4 lengths on Thursday in the $74,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares on the turf at Belmont Park.

The 4-year-old gray filly improved to 5-3-1 in 11 starts. Junior Alvarado was aboard for trainer Rudy Rodriguez who had four wins on the card.

Silver Screamer covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.91 and paid $5.80, $3.80 and $3.20. Limonar returned $5.40 and $4.10 while J C's Queen paid $9.30 in third.

Source: The Brownsville Herald

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