Trainer Doug O’Neill suspended, fined for drug violation

Doug O'Neill walks by protesters carrying signs.
Trainer Doug O’Neill walks by a protest showing support for Del Mar track workers in 2019.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill was suspended for a minimum of 10 days and fined $7,500 for a medication violation that occurred on Oct. 9, 2020, at Santa Anita.

The horse Howbeit tested positive for the pain reliever Lidocaine after finishing second in a claiming race. O’Neill entered into a settlement agreement with the California Horse Racing Board in which he would have to serve only 10 days of the 30-day suspension if he remains without any more medication violations for a year. The suspension starts Monday and goes through March 17.

O’Neill is best known for winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another in 2012. The horse scratched before the Belmont with an injury. But during that time O’Neill was fighting a suspension from the CHRB so he could train his horse in the Belmont Stakes.


O’Neill eventually served 45 days of a 180-day suspension for “milkshaking,” a process in which bicarbonate of soda, water, sugar and electrolytes are put in a horse’s stomach with the hope of enhancing performance. O’Neill, to this day, denies he did that.

In 2013, he served 45 days of another 180-suspension when Oxazepam, a sedative that can ease anxiety, was found in the system of a horse running in New York. O’Neill was not in New York at the time, but all trainers are responsible for the condition of a horse even if they are not present. O’Neill also has denied any involvement in that situation. Even though the violation was in New York, California honored the suspension.

O’Neill also won the Kentucky Derby in 2016 with Nyquist.

O’Neill could not be reached for comment.