Breeders' Cup said Oct. 3 it will not permit trainer Doug O'Neill to enter horses for this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships "due to recent administrative action" in New York.
The New York State Gaming Commission earlier said O'Neill entered into a settlement agreement under which he will be suspended 45 days and fined $10,000 after the horse Wind of Bosphorus tested positive for the drug oxazepam, a metabolite of the muscle relaxant diazepam, following a victory in the second race at Belmont Park June 2, 2013.
As part of the agreement, the suspension was not initially scheduled to begin until Nov. 3, two days following the Breeders' Cup in California, and would end Dec. 18. Among the horses he planned to run in Breeders' Cup races are Goldencents and Private Zone.
O'Neill, 46, is a high-profile trainer on the Southern California circuit with four grade I Breeders' Cup wins to his credit—the 2005 Juvenile, 2006 Sprint, 2007 Filly & Mare Sprint, and last year's Dirt Mile. He is ranked 15th nationally among trainers with purse earnings of $4,268,511 this year, according to Equibase.
He trained 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another , who was scratched the day before the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) with an injury and subsequently retired.
In a statement Oct. 3, O'Neill said he accepts the Breeders' Cup decision and that he had requested the NYSGC to move up the effective date of the suspension to Oct. 6 "or as soon thereafter as is practicable."
"I now realize that delaying the suspension so that I could participate in the Breeder's Cup was a mistake," O'Neill said. "Accordingly, after further reflection and prior to the Breeder's Cup announcement that I could not participate, I made a request to the New York State Gaming Commission that my suspension begin on Oct. 6, 2014 or as soon thereafter as is practicable."
The gaming commission said the drug was administered within a week of the horse's race, which violates the state's racing rules. The owner had to give up the first-place purse of $24,600, and Wind of Bosphorus was relegated to unplaced.
O'Neill agreed to an additional 45-day suspension if any horse trained by him tests positive for a Class 1, 2, or 3 medication in any pari-mutuel jurisdiction on or before Dec. 18, 2015. The California Horse Racing Board is looking into whether O'Neill violated terms of earlier agreement with it following an August 2010 violation for a higher-than-permitted threshold of total carbon dioxide. He was extended an 18-month probation in that case when suspended May 29, 2012.
Breeders' Cup president and chief executive officer Craig Fravel, in announcing the ban, cited an organization rule concerning such situations.
"Due to the recent administrative action by the New York State Gaming Commission, Breeders' Cup has informed trainer Doug O'Neill, and has notified the California Horse Racing Board, of the provisions of the Breeders' Cup Convicted Trainers rule. Under that rule, adopted in 2010 and amended in 2012, Mr. O'Neill will not be permitted to pre-enter horses in the 2014 Breeders' Cup World Championships," Fravel said in a statement. The rule affects the pre-entering and entering of horses into the championships.
The rule is as follows:
No person may participate as a trainer of a horse pre-entered or entered in a Breeders' Cup World Championships race if that person, during the 12 months preceding the Breeders' Cup World Championships, has been found by any racing regulatory agency, whether a governmental agency or a non-governmental regulatory body, to have violated a racing regulation prohibiting the possession or use of any substance listed under Class 1, carrying Category "A" or "B" penalties, or Class 2, carrying a Category "A" penalty, in the Association of Racing Commissioners International Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances or a racing regulation prohibiting the possession or use of steroids and the appeal periods for such finding shall have expired or all appeals, if any, will have received final disposition (a "Drug Conviction").
O'Neill's full statement in response stated:
"I accept the Breeder's Cup decision that I will not be permitted to participate in the 2014 Breeder's Cup World Championships and I will not appeal it.
"In agreeing to settle the underlying allegations made by the New York State Gaming Commission that Wind of Bosphorous, a horse for which I was the trainer of record, tested positive for a benzodiazepine drug, I agreed to be suspended from participating as a Thoroughbred trainer for 45 days and pay a $10,000 fine.
"I maintain that I did not administer the drug, and I am confident that none of my employees or staff did either. In fact, I was not present or even in the state of New York when the alleged infraction took place. Nevertheless, I was the trainer of record and take responsibility for the positive test.
"One of the reasons I wanted to resolve these allegations was to not be a distraction to the racing community. Unfortunately, it has become clear that certain reactions to the settlement have had the opposite effect. In particular, the provision that my suspension be postponed until after the Breeder's Cup has caused a particularly strong reaction in some quarters.
"I now realize that delaying the suspension so that I could participate in the Breeder's Cup was a mistake. Accordingly, after further reflection and prior to the Breeder's Cup announcement that I could not participate, I made a request to the New York State Gaming Commission that my suspension begin on Oct. 6, 2014 or as soon thereafter as is practicable.
"I truly care about the horses under my care and the sport that we all love and do not wish for my suspension to do any more harm than it has already done."