While Doug O’Neill has been able to enjoy everything Baltimore has to offer during the past week and a half, his time in town hasn’t been devoid of controversy.
The trainer of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another has been accused of “milkshaking” his horses -- giving them an illegal mixture that makes them feel less tired -- four times in his career. His record has been the center of some attention on O’Neill this week, who said he will answer questions in greater detail once the Triple Crown ends and California racing officials, who have yet to announce their ruling on a 2010 incident (the most recent), make an announcement.
With different regulations and guidelines for drug testing in each state, O’Neill and several other prominent trainers have been calling for a national governing body to be formed, led by a commissioner, in order to regulate the standards of drug testing and licensing in horse racing.
“Some states are more sensitive than others,” O’Neill said, adding that there are treatments prescribed by veterinarians that produce positive drug tests in certain states and not others. “It would be nice if there was one national hub that all the tests went to.”
D. Wayne Lukas, whose horses have won at the Preakness five times, agreed with O’Neill. He thinks a commissioner also needs to have the clout to enforce rules and regulate the sport, he said.
“I cannot understand why all these state commissioners go to the national meetings, talk about all these problems, then go home and do their states different,” Lukas said. “Surely, someone should stand up and say they should be uniform.”
Michael Matz, who trained Union Rags, a heavy Derby contender, and Teeth of the Dog, who will run in Saturday’s Preakness, also called for a commissioner to be put in place. He is frustrated with the way bans and violations become almost irrelevant because there isn’t a governing body to truly enforce them and legal loopholes can extend the careers of trainers who break the rules.
Lukas cited the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell as an example of how horse racing should operate. He said because 32 teams back Goodell in his actions, both administrative and disciplinary, the players and teams have no other choice but to listen. In horse racing, nobody wants to stand up together and back a disciplinary decision handed down to a trainer, so these problems continue, he said.
Matz understands that mistakes happen, especially at big stables, but a unification of rules nationally would help set the standard for what can and cannot be done, he said.
Five more horses arrive
Bodemeister, Cozzetti and Creative Cause all touched down at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airportjust after 2 p.m. Wednesday and arrived at Pimlico shortly after 3 p.m. Daddy Nose Best, the 10th place finisher at the Kentucky Derby, walked the shedrow at Barn 38 at Churchill Downs before shipping here Wednesday.
Went the Day Well arrived Wednesday from Fair Hill Training Center.His trainer, Graham Motion, shipped Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Preakness runner-up, to Pimlico the morning of the race. He said Went the Day Well will benefit from coming to the track a few days early.
"It's all about letting him take it all in. He'll school in the gate and school in the paddock tomorrow," Motion said. "It's as much about getting him used to his surroundings as it is about getting him used to the track."
Collmus returns to call second Preakness
It is the pinnacle of any racing announcer's dream to grace the press boxes and call the races of the Triple Crown.
For Larry Collmus, currently in his second year calling the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes for NBC, this Saturday's race holds a special place because of his Baltimore roots.
"It's as big a thrill as you can imagine," said Collmus, who attended Mount St. Joseph. "When you start in the business you can only dream you'll end up there. And the fact that I was able to do that is pretty great, and I'm excited to be back."
Collmus started calling horse races as a kid in the shower and got his first job doing it at age 18 in Bowie.
To call the Preakness is as big a thrill as calling the Kentucky Derby, he said.
"After being the backup announcer [at Pimlico] 26 years ago, to come back and walk into this press box to know that I'm going to be calling the Preakness is pretty amazing," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Chris Korman contributed to this article.