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Trainer Doug O'Neill giddy over Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol becoming racehorse owners

May 09, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Trainer Doug O'Neill was a media darling on Sunday, a day after I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Doug O'Neill was a media darling on Sunday, a day after I'll… (Garry Jones / Associated…)

As he walked throughout Staples Center, horse trainer Doug O'Neill saw various images that reminded him of a week he described as incredible.

Seeing the Lakers' 16 NBA championship banners reminded him of his victory Saturday in the Kentucky Derby with I'll Have Another, who he trained. Watching Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol play in the Lakers' 102-99 Game 5 loss Thursday to the Denver Nuggets brought to mind April 25, when the two Lakers stars decided to become co-owners of the racehorse Siempre Mio in an auction benefiting the Lakers Youth Foundation.

The auction left O'Neill, the horse's trainer, and Mark Verge, chief executive of Santa Anita Park, scratching their heads.

"When the auction started, we thought nobody would bid on this," Verge said. "Next thing you know they call us up and they start a bidding war.

Bryant initially bid $2,000 before the two teammates took turns outbidding each other by $1,000. Bryant finally won with a bid of $8,000, but that prompted Gasol to see if he could become a co-owner by matching Bryant. They shared the owning rights after LA Car Guy President Mike Sullivan chipped in $8,000, making a total of $24,000 raised for the Lakers Youth Foundation.

"Whatever the horse earns, they keep," O'Neill said. "But as far as the upkeep, we take care of it."

O'Neill expects Bryant and Gasol to receive their Calfornia horse racing license within two weeks. That would allow them firsthand involvement leading up to Siempre Mio's next planned race at the end of May at Hollywood Park.

"Owning a racehorse is like owning a professional franchise," O'Neill said. "You’re very involved. They’ll be involved as much as they want to be."

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