Last Updated: 9:32 AM, May 11, 2012
Posted: 2:20 AM, May 11, 2012
Doug O’Neill is having the time of his life since saddling I’ll Have Another to win Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, but all isn’t sweetness and light.
With that victory thrusting O’Neill into the spotlight as he prepares his colt for the May 19 Preakness, the California-based trainer is being questioned about three TC02 (Total Carbon Dioxide) violations he was penalized for since 2007, and another that is pending.
In June 2007 and October 2008, O’Neill was fined by the California Horse Racing Board when his horses tested for excess levels of TCO2 in their blood. TCO2 tests are conducted to see if a horse was “milkshaked” — that is, given sodium bicarbonate — which is supposed to fight fatigue by slowing the buildup of lactic acid. In June 2010, O’Neill served a 15-day suspension for a TCO2 violation in Illinois.
There was another alleged TCO2 violation in August 2010 in California, which calls for a “minimum 90-day suspension absent mitigating circumstances” or a maximum suspension of 180 days for a third offense. O’Neill appealed the case, which is still pending, and he has sued the CHRB alleging their TCO2 testing procedure is flawed.
The answers to those questions will have to wait.
“Right now, I owe it to the owner [Paul Reddam], to the fans and to the horse to just focus in on I’ll Have Another,” O’Neill said yesterday when asked about the violations on a national media teleconference. “He went through every medication exam, every physical exam, blood, urine, every exam you can think of in all three races this year.
“They’ve done everything but pick him up by the hooves and shake his ears.
“I’ve spent a lot of money on legal fees to fight [the most recent charge]. I know for a fact I won’t get suspended before the end of the Triple Crown. There’s zero chance of that happening.
“Hopefully, we can kick some butt in the Preakness and kick some butt in the Belmont, and then after everything has calmed down, I would love to sit down and address all that. I think everything’s going to be fine in the end.”
Media scrutiny, O’Neill acknowledged, comes with the territory of being a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer.
“All of those guys, the Bafferts, the Zitos, the Lukases, they’ve all battled the press,” he said. “I know they’ve all experienced the negative side of being on the national stage. You win the big one, and people want to go after you.”