Doug O'Neill, Hollywood Park's leading trainer, will run his horses out of a detention barn for the next 30 days because one of his starters tested over the permitted level for total carbon dioxide in May.
Under a track mandate, O'Neill's race-day runners will be moved from his barn to the detention barn a few rows away for 24 hours prior to their races. The detention period runs through July 13. For 15 days after that, the O'Neill barn will be subject to surveillance from California Horse Racing Board personnel. In addition, O'Neill could face a fine or suspension from the CHRB.
"We're completely innocent," O'Neill said. "But we're trying to do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening again. We're going to look forward to kicking some butt out of the detention barn.
"But it's an embarrassment. It's a privilege to be able to train on this circuit and run the types of horses we do, and we want to play by the rules. I kind of feel like a guy who is found guilty of a DUI who never took a drink."
The 38-year-old O'Neill, who stables more than 100 horses at Hollywood Park, said the detention makes things a little more difficult for his busy operation, but isn't a major drawback. O'Neill's stable, which emerged as a leader on the Southern California circuit in 2004, earned $9.4 million last year. Among his stars are the mutliple grade I winners Lava Man and the Eclipse Award-winning Stevie Wonderboy.
In a pre-race blood test May 27, Wisdom Cat, who finished last of eight at 48-1 in an allowance race at Hollywood Park, tested over the permitted 37-millimole threshold for TCO2 per liter of blood. High levels of CO2 can indicate the presence of alkalizing agents such as bicarbonates, often referred to as a "milkshake," which are believed to help lessen a horse's muscle fatigue.
Testing for bicarbonates began in Southern California at Santa Anita Park in December 2004 by a racetrack consortium headed by Dr. Rick Arthur and was taken over by the CHRB last October after passage of enabling state legislation.
"I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Arthur and the board," O'Neill said. "They are trying to do the right thing. But this one definitely slipped through the cracks."