Trainer Doug O'Neill told Daily Racing Form his large stable probably will be inactive from June 30-July 14 after California Horse Racing Board stewards ruled they would enforce a 15-day suspension issued in Illinois earlier this year. The suspension resulted from a test detecting an excess level of total carbon dioxide (TCO2) in Stephen's Got Hope, an O'Neill-trained horse that finished seventh in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. TCO2 detection is commonly known as milkshake testing, which tries to determine whether a horse may have received bicarbonate loading before a race, a procedure believed to reduce lactic acid buildup and prevent fatigue in racehorses.
O'Neill said he opted not to appeal the suspension after attorney Steve Schwartz was unable to convince stewards that the Illinois rule regarding milkshakes was different than California's and should not be enforced in California. “I can't fight any more financially,” said O'Neill. “I don't want to pursue any lengthy financial hits.”
This is the third known violation for excess TCO2 levels for O'Neill, who was penalized in 2006 and 2008 in California.
O'Neill is Hollywood Park's leading trainer, with 26 victories through Friday's program. He has started 143 horses during the current meeting, through Friday, 60 more than anyone else. The suspension begins Wednesday and runs through July 14.
It is standard operating procedure for suspended trainers to run their horses in the name of their assistant trainer, but O'Neill indicated to Daily Racing Form he probably would not have any runners during his suspension, saying his owners “don't want me to run while I'm down. They said they don't feel comfortable with me not calling the shots.”
With O'Neill's sizable stable inactive, it will become even more difficult for Hollywood Park's racing office to fill races. The track has had to call off two live cards during the current meeting for a lack of entries.
Is O'Neill playing hardball with California racing officials? If this is his way of hitting back at the CHRB and its stewards because he is unhappy with their decision, he will also be hurting his fellow horsemen and California racing fans if any more programs are cancelled. – Ray Paulick
Read about O'Neill's suspension in Daily Racing Form
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