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HRN Original Blog:
From Coast to Coast

C'mon! Give O'Neill a Break

Before we begin, let's just get a few things straight. 
 
Fact 1: Horse racing is a dangerous sport. [Duh.] 
 
Fact 2: Like with any sport, or just life in general, accidents happen. [Am I really having to spell this out?] 
 
*Insert eyeroll* 
 
Fact 3: Doug O'Neill's track record with breakdowns and racing infractions is less than stellar. [How many times have we heard this in the past several weeks?] 
 
Fact 4: The sky is blue. [Just checking to make sure you were paying attention.] 
 
Fact 5: O'Neill has been under tons of scrutiny during I'll Have Another's Triple Crown campagin. [Flashback to 2008.] 
 
Fact 6: O'Neill was suspended for 45 days even though the CHRB ruled that he had done nothing wrong. [Rules are rules after all.] 
 
Fact 7: The general consensus was that the "Stakes Barn" was a bad idea and that the group that came up with the idea did not have the horses in mind. [Anytime changes occur so close to event time, chaos will ensue.] 
 
Fact 8: After coming out of a workout with a loss of definition to his left foreleg, I'll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont Stakes and subsequently retired. [And the drought continues. Will we ever see another Triple Crown winner?] 
 
*Pause for dramatic effect* 
 
Now that we are up to speed, we can move on. 
 
Keeping all of the above in mind (minus Fact 4), why then is Doug O'Neill STILL being criticized? Despite what the press would have you believe, O'Neill is not a terrible guy. Okay, so he has had some drug infractions and some breakdowns, but I think it is safe to say that a majority of trainers have had similar problems. Half ton animals + slender, delicate legs + speeds of around 40 mph = disaster waiting to happen. It is a risk that everyone in the business takes. Owners and trainers are aware of these risks, and all but the lowest of the low take precautions to ensure the safety of both horse and rider, which is exactly what O'Neill did when he scratched I'll Have Another. Rather than sending out a colt who was less than 100%, he made the tough decision to put the horse's welfare first even though, according to the vet, I'll Have Another could still have raced. 
 
Yet, O'Neill is somehow still the bad guy. At this point, I have heard it all. One guy decided that O'Neill and Reddam must have known about I'll Have Another's injury coming out of the Preakness and that they were asked to keep quiet about it in order for Belmont Park to ensure a sold out crowd on Belmont Stakes day. Considering what all occurred at Belmont over the past couple of weeks, I would say that it is safe to say this was not the case. Another believes that I'll Have Another injured himself by bucking and rearing in his new stall in the stakes barn. Another theory has O'Neill scratching I'll Have Another only because he was being so closely scrutinized. And one person even said that O'Neill and Reddam fabricated the injury to avoid running. 
 
*Insert eye roll* 
 
You have to feel bad for O'Neill, who, thanks to the decision to scratch I'll Have Another, found himself in the oh-so-lovely position of being damned if he did and damned if he didn't. Let's say he ran I'll Have Another anyway and that the colt broke down in the race. Can you imagine the outcry then? Luckily, we will never know what could have happened in that race in regards to a possible break down. So what if O'Neill made this decision because he was under scrutiny. For me, why he made the decision is not nearly as important as the decision itself. Despite our collective disappointment in not having the chance to potentially witness history, we can all at least agree on the relief that comes with knowing that I'll Have Another is safe and will have a brilliant career as a sire. 
 
Now I know that many are not going to agree with me on this. I'm okay with that. I am not letting O'Neill off the hook for past transgressions but simply allowing him the opportunity to redeem himself. We're all human, and we all make mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from them. And if yesterday's decision was any indication, I would argue that O'Neill is on the right path. 
 
Here's to a happy retirement and a brilliant second career at stud for I'll Have Another!

 

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Older Comments about C'mon! Give O'Neill a Break...

I really want him to go to Three Chimney's because this horse is the type that LOVES to run and they exercise their stallions there. I think it would great for him.
From I'll Have Another win to I'll Have Another...hot mare! Cheers!
I hope this will show people who have a negative look on the sport that they're are people that care about the horse and don't let their egos take over and that it is not all about the money sometimes. Hats off to Doug O' Neil and Paul Reddam for doing what is right for the horse. So really, I'll Have Another probably helped the sport, Triple Crown or not.
grateful they put the horse instead of their egos first.....
Conspiracy Theory always makes for better headlines. I'm glad they did the right thing with I.H.A.
In complete agreement. If you look at the record of O'Neill's transgressions he has gotten betetr with time. I do think that he has worked hard to become a better cleaner trainer. And he did the absolute best thing for I'll Have Another by the scratch.
ya oneil was being lambasted for what 90 pct of trainers do or have done.
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Meet Ashley Tamulonis
  
 

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

 

Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

 

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.