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Derby Winning Trainer O'Neill On Ride Of His Life

Horse trainer Doug O’Neill is on the ride of his life.  It began at the track as a boy watching his father make bets and then progressed steadily from the sport’s lowest jobs to its penultimate perch, one race away from immortality as the trainer of the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years.  Two weeks before that final leg – The Belmont Stakes – some in the media began to refer to him as “Drug O’Neill,” a reference to cheating he denies vehemently and others say is unfair. As he tries again this year to win the Kentucky Derby – the first leg of the Triple Crown –  O’Neill talks at length to correspondent Armen Keteyian about the accusations for a profile piece during the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS Wednesday, May 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on SHOWTIME.

 

The “Drug O’Neill” name irks him but he can still joke about it.  “That’s why I kick my mom for not naming me Gene, so I could be ‘clean Gene,” he tells Keteyian.  He says most respect him and have acknowledged his success, though the few that question him still hurt.  “Through the whole Triple Crown campaign…For every 10 pats on the back, I probably got two kicks in the nuts.”  

           

O’Neill denies to Keteyian that he has ever given his horses performance enhancing drugs.  Though, like many trainers, his record contains some flags, none of them point to deliberate cheating says Andrew Beyer, racing writer for the Washington Post.   “I know what cheating looks like…I’m the world’s most suspicious guy…you know, I saw no evidence anywhere that in recent years, Doug  O’Neill had done anything that produced results that you would say that this has to be illicit,” says Beyer.

 

Stories questioning O’Neill and drugs began in earnest a few weeks before the Belmont Stakes last year.   Then, when his horse, “I’ll Have Another,” was retired right before the race due to a hole in a tendon revealed by a vet’s scan, the charges hit a high.  Some wondered if he scratched the horse out of fear he would test positive for drugs, a sin so large at the brink of the highest achievement in racing that it would mar him for life.

 

Some believe O’Neill, who comes from the city and a blue-collar background, has been stigmatized by this lack of pedigree in a blue-blood sport. Says racing historian, “The minute somebody is really successful in the business, he’s going to become a target,” he tells William Nack Keteyian, saying jealousy could be one cause.  But another can lurk below the surface, too. “There’s a kind of caste system in racing…Doug is down there in the lower caste…But he’s a slumdog millionaire,” says Nack.

 

Keteyian also speaks to O’Neill’s mother, Dixie, his brother Dennis and childhood friend, Mark Verge, to round out this profile of thoroughbred racing’s most visible trainer.

 

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Older Comments about Derby Winning Trainer O'Neill On Ride Of His Life...

Please clarify the second to last paragraph. Who is William Nack Keteyian?
between a pace horse and a mid pack closer, give me the pace animal any day of the week.
I like Goldencents's chances. He could pull it off.
and mydady can beat youredaddy, GGGoOd LucK
U should be O'Neill, but I have a horse that gonna beat you at the wire...GOOD LUCK

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