The Horse Racing world was rocked Thursday afternoon when Doug O’Neill, who trains 2012 Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another, was handed down a 45 day suspension and a $15,000 fine as the result of a horse in his care testing positive for an “elevated level of carbon dioxide” in 2010.
Following a seven-day hearing, California Horse Racing Board Executive Director Kirk Breed will decide when the suspension will begin, but it will occur no sooner than July 1, 2012, so O’Neil is cleared to run I’ll Have Another in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
The horse in question was Argenta, who finished off the board in a race at Del Mar on August. 25, 2010, but a pre-race blood sample taken from the horse was found to contain a TCO2 level of 39.4 millimoles per liter, well above the 37.0 legal limit.
It was O’Neill’s third total carbon dioxide violation in California and fourth in his career. In 2010, he was suspended and fined for a similar offense involving one of his horses that ran in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course inChicago.
Elevated carbon dioxide is associated with ”milkshaking,” but the CHRB agreed with O’Neill that Argenta had not been fed a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes that enhances performance and combats fatigue. The CHRB did not indicate what might have caused the overage for the Class 3 drug violation however.
Regardless of the reason why Argenta tested positive, at the end of the day, the trainer is ultimately responsible for the horses under his care.
O’Neill vehemently denied any wrong doing and has spent over $250,000 defending himself.
“I know I didn’t milkshake a horse. None of us around the barn milkshaked any horses,” O’Neill told The Associated Press. “You got to have rules and I respect rules, but when you get faulty science involved, it costs a lot of money unfortunately, but you’ve got to fight it and that’s what we’re doing.”