Doug O'Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another,… (Garry Jones / Associated…)
The fate of trainer Doug O'Neill, charged by California Horse Racing Board enforcement officials with a substance abuse violation involving one of his horses, will be addressed Thursday morning at a board meeting at Hollywood Park.
These are usually low-profile procedural meetings, but the item on the agenda involving O'Neill, whose I'll Have Another will take a run at racing's coveted Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes June 9, has triggered much interest and speculation.
Racing's enforcement officials ruled that an O'Neill-trained horse, Argenta, tested positive for high levels of carbon dioxide after a race Aug. 25, 2010, at Del Mar. High levels of carbon dioxide are considered evidence of the use of a "milkshake" to illegally boost a horse's stamina.
Various legal procedures have taken place, including the eventual dismissal of a lawsuit last year by O'Neill against the board. A hearing officer, Steffan Imhoff, will make his report and recommendations to the seven-member board Thursday. Much has been made about the timing of the report, relative to O'Neill's current attempt at a Triple Crown, but one CHRB source said items must be placed on an agenda within 30 days of filing and that's why it is on the action list.
O'Neill could face up to a six-month suspension and $15,000 in fines. If the ruling goes against him, it is not expected to be applied before the Belmont; instead, the expectation is of more long legal actions and lawsuits that could stretch the case out for years.
O'Neill has claimed innocence repeatedly and has already spent $250,000 in legal fees.