Dennis O'Neill, racing manager for brother Doug O'Neill's stable, is fuming over comments he said were made by actress and California Horse Racing Board commissioner Bo Derek just before she presented the winner's trophy to the owners of Goldencents, following the Into Mischief colt's second successive victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile on Friday.
Goldencents, owned by Glenn Sorgenstein and Josh Kaplan's WC Racing, was saddled by Leandro Mora for the Mile in what would be his final start before going off to stud at Spendthrift Farm. The colt's regular trainer, Doug O'Neill, was under suspension from the CHRB as a result of a stipulated agreement that said O'Neill violated the terms of a probation that was part of an earlier ruling.
After Goldencents repelled an early challenge from Vicar's in Trouble and a late-charging Tapiture to win the Dirt Mile, Dennis O'Neill joined the winning owners in the trophy presentation area, where he said he overheard Derek comment to Santa Anita Park president and Breeders' Cup board member Tom Ludt: “I can't believe you would have me present this to these guys.”
The televised presentation was awkward, to say the least, and having a CHRB commissioner present the trophy for the Dirt Mile – a race where Goldencents was the heavy morning line favorite – was not the brightest move by Breeders' Cup or Santa Anita officials.
O'Neill sent the following email to CHRB chairman Chuck Winner and Rick Baedeker, executive director of the regulatory board.
My name is Dennis O'Neill, the brother of Doug O'Neill.
Winning a Breeders Cup race is the ultimate achievement in horse racing. We all strive to get to that level of competition and someday compete in these incredible races. To actually win one, as we did today, and celebrate with owners and friends is the ultimate accomplishment in our sport.
To have that achievement so disrespected and treated with such a lack of class by Commissioner Derek today was beyond belief. I understand her bias and dislike for Doug, but to take that out on Leandro and the owners of this magnificent horse and this amazing achievement on this day, show a complete lack of character. If members of this committee cannot contain themselves with their utter disdain at Goldencents winning, could we not find someone who could have at least faked it? Her rudeness to Leandro and comments to the president of Santa Anita with myself and others close by of “I can't believe you would have me present this to THESE guys” shows a complete lack of class and ruined what should have been a glorious day for Glenn and Josh and myself.
It is very frustrating to know that this board, that represents ALL owners in California could be so biased and mean on what should have been a fantastic day.
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