Doug O'Neill

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Doug O'Neill
Doug O'Neill.jpg
Doug O'Neill at 2012 Preakness Stakes.
Occupation Trainer
Born (1968-05-24) May 24, 1968 (age 47)
Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.
Career wins 2,015+ (ongoing)
Major racing wins

Fantasy Stakes (2000)
Hollywood Gold Cup (2002, 2005, 2006)
Longacres Mile Handicap (2003)
Palos Verdes Handicap (2003)
Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile (2004)
Las Virgenes Stakes (2005)
San Marcos Stakes (2005)
Santa Ynez Stakes (2005)
Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (2006)
Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (2006)
Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (2006)
Santa Anita Handicap (2006)
Pacific Classic Stakes (2006)
Santa Barbara Handicap (2006)
Santa Anita Handicap (2006, 2007)
Sunshine Millions Classic (2006)
Godolphin Mile (2007)
Robert B. Lewis Stakes (2007)
San Felipe Stakes (2007)
Sunshine Millions Turf (2007)
Donn Handicap (2008)

American Classics / Breeders' Cup wins:
Breeders' Cup Juvenile (2005, 2015)
Breeders' Cup Sprint (2006)
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (2007)
Kentucky Derby (2012)
Preakness Stakes (2012)

International race wins:
Japan Cup Dirt (2003)
California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association:
Trainer of the Year (2002)
Significant horses
Great Hunter, I'll Have Another, Fleetstreet Dancer, Lava Man, Notional, Maryfield, Square Eddie, Stevie Wonderboy, Thor's Echo, Nyquist

Douglas F. "Doug" O'Neill (May 24, 1968) is an American Thoroughbred horse trainer.[1][2][3][4] He was born in Dearborn, Michigan,[2] and resides in California, where he trained the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, I'll Have Another.[5] O'Neill and his family reside in Santa Monica, California.

Horse racing[edit]

In 1986 he began working in Thoroughbred horse racing as a stable hand and eventually a training assistant. In 1994 he obtained his professional trainer's license and since the early 2000s has been a major figure on the California racing scene, with the largest stable in Southern California[6] and one of the largest and most successful in the United States.[7] He gained national attention for his Breeders' Cup wins and international recognition for winning the 2003 Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Racecourse.[8]

Two horses trained by O'Neill, Liquidity and Great Hunter, raced in the 2007 Kentucky Derby. This was O'Neill's first and second start in the Kentucky Derby.[9]

2012 season[edit]

Canadian owned I'll Have Another, trained by O'Neill, won the 2012 Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012.[5] The horse also won the 2012 Preakness Stakes and was viewed as a potential Triple Crown winner. However, in the meantime, O'Neill's multiple violations of medication rules caught up with him and he was given a 45-day suspension, though because O'Neill's suspension was not set to begin prior to July 1, 2012,[10] he was permitted to run I'll Have Another in the 2012 Belmont Stakes.[11]

The race featured tightened security, including a "dentention barn" where all entrants had to be stabled together in a specially-designated barn, starting three days before the race.[11] Although dubbed the "O'Neill Rules" by the New York Post,[12] the potential for a triple crown also increased the scrutiny given the race.[13] Furthermore, the New York Racing Association had also been taken over by the state of New York earlier in the year due to problems with horse deaths and questions surrounding "exotic bets."[14]

O'Neill scratched I'll Have Another from the Belmont the day prior to the race, citing a tendon injury.[15] The decision to scratch I'll Have Another was based on the O'Neill's monitoring of swelling in the horse's foreleg early in the week of the Belmont, and confirmation by Dr. James Hunt, a NY-based veterinarian that the horse risked further injury if he ran.[16] Racing fans and some commentators speculated that O'Neill scratched I'll Have Another not because of a relatively minor tendon injury, but because he "couldn't doctor the horse the way he needed to because of the detention barn." Others dismissed this as a conspiracy theory.[17] John Sabini, chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board stated that the decision to scratch the horse was disappointing but that the trainer and owner "put the welfare of the horse first, showing true horsemanship." [16]

Medication violations[edit]

In May 2012, after a two-year legal battle, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) found that O'Neill was responsible for a horse that tested with excess carbon dioxide levels above the permitted level of TCO2. As a result, though he was not found guilty of "milkshaking" the horse - providing an "illegal performance-enhancing mixture," O'Neill was deemed responsible for the animal's care, barred from horse racing for 45 days and fined $15,000.[10]

A few days after I'll Have Another won the 2012 Derby, New York Times writers Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich ran a story discussing O'Neill's extensive history of medication violations.[18] It ran on the front page of the paper.[19] Additional criticism came from other quarters, including Frank Deford of NPR, who expressed his view that both O'Neill and the owner of I'll Have Another did not deserve to win the Belmont, describing O'Neill as "a charming enough character, but a drug cheat nonetheless."[20] Due to the reports of multiple medication violations, O'Neill had been nicknamed "'Drug' O'Neill."[21] However, some industry experts, such as Andrew Beyer of the Washington Post, felt that O'Neill was a skilled trainer who had made some mistakes but had been "maligned."[19] Taking a middle ground, Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times viewed O'Neill's violations as a "misdemeanor."[22] Bogdanich found that O'Neill had 15 medication drug violations during his career and had "milkshaked" horses—an illegal treatment for fatigue that involves inserting a tube down a horse's esophagus to administer a mixture of substances. In a 2012 interview with NPR, Bogdanich criticized a lack of enforcement of drug rules in American horse racing, noting that although O'Neill faced a 180-day suspension for milkshaking, any punishment imposed upon him have would little impact on his livelihood: "He could turn it over to his assistants, his stable, and never miss a beat. The horses keep running. If they win, they keep getting their purses. You know, that's what America lacks that the rest of the world has. They have law and order."[23] In October 2012, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on O'Neill's gregariousness and kindness to others, suggesting that jealousy motivated his detractors.[24]

In October 2014, O'Neill was given another 45-day suspension as a result of a June 2013 violation at Belmont Park. By this time, O'Neill had accumulated 19 drug violations. The New York Racing Association also fined him $10,000. However, as happened in 2012, they agreed that he would not have to serve his suspension until after a major race, this time the 2014 Breeders' Cup. He was also given an additional 45-day suspended sentence, which would "be served if he incurs another medication violation before December 18, 2015, at any US track."[25] Following his New York suspension, he was given a separate 45 day suspension in California, based on his violation of the CHRB restrictions from 2012 due to the 2013 New York violation. This suspension foreclosed his ability to train horses for the 2014 Breeders' Cup. In addition, California gave him an 18-month probation period on top of the 45 day ban, during which time he cannot have any further Class I, II, or III drug violations in any part of the USA or internationally. While his previous penalties were based upon the dates that assorted complaints were filed or adjudicated, this time the ruling was that the "deciding event" for any violation would be the date when the offense actually occurred. His assistant trainer was put in charge of conditioning horses for his stable, and one horse was transferred to a different trainer.[26]


  1. ^ Gruender, Scott A. (2007). Jockey: The Rider's Life in American Thoroughbred Racing. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-2819-9. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  2. ^ a b Free, Brad (2004-11-17). " - Horse Racing - Trainer Doug O'Neill staying put in California". Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  3. ^ "Trainer Doug O'Neill surrounded by talent - Horse Racing - ESPN". 2007-03-20. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  4. ^ "Bill Dwyre; Moving into the fast lane; O'Neill has earned plenty of money and attention as the trainer of Lava Man, but now he takes center stage with four possible Kentucky Derby runners". Los Angeles Times. 2007-04-06. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  5. ^ a b Harris, Beth (2012-05-05). "Canadian-owned I'll Have Another wins Kentucky Derby". CBC Sports (Toronto). Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2012-05-05. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  6. ^ "Trainer Doug O'Neill staying put in California". November 17, 2004. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  7. ^ Gruender, Scott A. (2006). Jockey: The Rider's Life in American Thoroughbred Racing. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-7864-2819-9. 
  8. ^ "Classic Success". The Blood-Horse. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Derby is everything trainer once dreamed". Star Phoenix (Saskatoon). May 4, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Harris, Beth (25 May 2012). "Trainer O'Neill suspended by Calif. racing board after a nearly two-year legal battle". Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Belmont Stakes detention barn opens". The Boston Globe. June 5, 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  12. ^ "Belmont increases security in wake of trainer's suspension". New York Post. May 31, 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Ford, Bob (8 June 2012). "Blame Belmont detention barn on O'Neill, sure, but it's also pure theater". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Hegarty, Mike (30 May 2012). "Belmont Stakes 2012: Barn area security tightened". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  15. ^ Velin, Bob (8 June 2012). "Belmont betting will suffer without I'll Have Another". USA Today. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Gerning, Dave (June 10, 2012). "I'll Have Another scratched from Belmont Stakes and retired with a tendon injury". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  17. ^ Korman, Chris (June 9, 2012). "Scrutiny on Doug O'Neill proves horse racing needs reform: A tumultuous Triple Crown season underlines the need for better government of the sport". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Drape, Joe; Bogdanich, Walt (May 10, 2012). "A Derby Win, but a Troubled Record for a Trainer". New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Beyer, Andrew (April 29, 2013). "Kentucky Derby: Doug O'Neill doesn't deserve his bad reputation". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Defordq, Frank (June 6, 2012). "Please Sir, I'd Rather Have Another". NPR. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  21. ^ PRITCHARD, JUSTIN (8 June 2012). "'Drug' O'Neill hopes to win Triple Crown". Associated press. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  22. ^ Dwyre, Bill (June 6, 2012). "Doug O'Neill becomes America's bad guy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Gross, Terry; Joe Drape; Walt Bogdanich (May 10, 2012). "Horse Racing: America's Most Dangerous Game?". NPR. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  24. ^ Simers, T.J. (October 16, 2012). "Doug O'Neill earns respect, even if some won't give it to him". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  25. ^ Godfrey, Nicholas (2 October 2014). "O'Neill suspended after 19th drug violation". Racing Post. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  26. ^ Shinar, Jack (October 9, 2014). "O'Neill Slapped With 45-Day Ban in California". Blood-Horse. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 

External links[edit]