O’Neill: Pre-Race Treatment a ‘Human Error’

by | 09.01.2013 | 8:37am
Trainer Doug O'Neill knows it's three strikes and you're out at the old ball game

Trainer Doug O'Neill will go before California Horse Racing Board stewards for an incident that occurred at Del Mar on Aug. 24 when a foreman in his barn gave an amino acid supplement to a horse entered to race later that day – an apparent violation of California Horse Racing Board rules.

Reddam Racing and John Fuller's Cinco de Mario was scratched from the fifth race Aug. 24 after CHRB safety steward Luis Jauregui saw an O'Neill employee “enter the stall of a horse with a detention sign on the door and administer a product in its mouth,” according to the published stewards' minutes from that day. “He confronted the person, who turned out to be the foreman, and confiscated the tube, which had the brand name CB2A and contained amino acids, which are illegal to give on race day. The horse turned out to be Cinco de Mario, which was scheduled to run in the fifth race.”

It is believed the substance was a branched-chain amino acid supplement (BCAA), popular with body-builders and sold by a number of equine product companies as a paste to boost energy, help repair muscle damage, and reduce chances of post-race tying-up. It is against CHRB rules to give anything other than food, water, “feed supplements that do not contain prohibited drugs,” and bleeder medication on race-day.

CHRB rule 1843.5 permits the administration of certain substances, including amino acid supplements “by injection,” up to 24 hours prior to post time.

“It was a human error,” O'Neill told the Paulick Report. “We made a mistake and had to scratch the horse. There will be a hearing about it. It's a paste available in tack shops and we do use it on horses that have a tendency to tie up. We give it 25-30 hours out for horses that are candidates for tying up. We see benefits. My foreman was supposed to give it to Handsome Mike, who was running the next day.”

One website that sells the paste recommends BCAA be given three to four hours before competition or on three consecutive days prior to competition (without having to give it that day and still be effective). It can be administered in a variety of ways, including oral syringe, tube, or even sprinkled in a horse's feed.

Cinco de Mario was getting the supplement less than one hour before his race, according to the stewards' minutes.

In 2012, Last Sting, a mare in trainer Melody Conlon's barn, had to be scratched from an Aug. 5 race at Del Mar when safety steward Jauregui observed a member of Conlon's staff giving the horse the same product Cinco de Mario received. Conlon, who had no medication infractions on her record since 2007, was fined $400 for violation of CHRB rule 1629 (penalty for late declaration).

O'Neill, trainer of the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, has multiple medication violations on his record, including several TCO2 overages, the last of which resulted in a 45-day suspension served last summer.

No hearing date has been scheduled.

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