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Questions coming for O'Neill

BALTIMORE — Doug O'Neill has three weeks to prepare I'll Have Another for a final run at the Triple Crown, and the suddenly popular trainer likely will spend some of that time fielding questions about pending penalties tied to allegations of giving his horses improper drugs.

The topic surfaced briefly Saturday night, while O'Neill was still in a euphoric state over his first Preakness victory. He brushed off the topic in much the same way I'll Have Another shrugged off his role as underdog to runnerup Bodemeister, blazing past him in the final strikes to win by a neck.

"We play by the rules," O'Neill said. "It's all about the horse. We're going to focus on the horse. I think we've got a horse and a team that, with a little bit of luck, will have an unbelievable time in three weeks."

O'Neill has been accused in California of "milkshaking," the illegal practice of giving a horse a blend of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes. The mixture is designed to reduce fatigue and enhance performance.

O'Neill's most recent violation dates from an Aug. 25, 2010, race at Del Mar in California. A blood test on his horse Argenta showed elevated levels of TCO2 — the so-called milkshake — before it finished eighth.

He faces penalties ranging from a minimum 90-day suspension and a $5,000 fine to a maximum 180-day suspension and fine of $15,000.

Any suspension almost certainly wouldn't occur before the Belmont on June 9.

DAZED OVER DEJA VU: Mike Smith appeared dazed in the moments after his horse, Bodemeister, was again beaten by Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another — this time by a neck in the Preakness.

The veteran jockey wore the frozen smile of a man hardly able to fathom what had just transpired.

"I swear I don't know how he ran me down, man," Smith said after trainer Bob Baffert approached in the fading sunlight.

I'll Have Another will now try to become the first horse since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown at next month's Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. There won't be a third race between I'll Have Another and Bodemeister.

"He gets off the bus here," Baffert said.

RECORD CROWD: A record crowd of 121,309 showed up at Pimlico, and the 13-race card generated an all-sources handle of $80,463,005, sixth highest in Preakness history.

Questions coming for O'Neill 05/19/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 10:23pm]
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