Doug O’Neill

Top Kentucky Derby Trainers – Doug O’Neill

There’s no success like recent success. Doug O’Neill is the controversial trainer behind I’ll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2012. What can he do for an encore in 2013?

We say controversial because O’Neill found himself in hot water last year following an investigative report by The New York Times. As it turns out, O’Neill was rung up for 15 medication drug violations while working out of Hollywood Park. Last May, the California Horse Racing Board suspended O’Neill for 45 days, but allowed him to race I’ll Have Another at the Belmont. O’Neill eventually pulled the horse from the race, blaming a minor tendon injury. Skeptics believe it was because of the tightened security around the horses, preventing “Drug O’Neill” from preparing I’ll Have Another to his satisfaction.

It’s possible. Notwithstanding, O’Neill has a history of success as a trainer that stretches back well over a decade. Born in Michigan in 1968, O’Neill started his career in 1986 as a stablehand and worked his way up the food chain, getting his trainer’s license in 1994. His first major win was with Classy Clara at the 2000 Fantasy Stakes; in 2005, O’Neill won the first of three Breeders’ Cup races when Stevie Wonderboy took the Juvenile.

O’Neill’s biggest break was with Lava Man. Purchased for a mere $50,000, Lava Man ended up with over $5 million in earnings, allowing O’Neill to grow his Santa Monica-based empire to massive proportions. Two of his horses, Great Hunter and Liquidity, ran in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th and 14th.

Then came 2012. O’Neill will try to duplicate that success in 2013 with He’s Had Enough, featuring the same owner (Paul Reddam) and the same jockey (Mario Gutierrez) as I’ll Have Another. He’s Had Enough finished a game second to Shanghai Bobby at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. O’Neill also has his hands on Goldencents, who made an early dent on the Road to the Kentucky Derby point standings with a place at the Champagne Stakes (four points) and a win at the Delta Downs Jackpot (10 points).