NEW YORK -- With the Triple Crown on the line, New York racing officials have imposed a strict set of rules for horses running in the Belmont Stakes, including out-of-competition blood testing and close scrutiny of the horses and humans attending them in the days leading up to the race.
I'll Have Another is bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years at the Belmont on June 9. His California-based trainer, Doug O'Neill, has a history of doping infractions and was recently suspended for 45 days, although the punishment won't begin until after the Belmont.
The New York Times reported late Wednesday night that steps taken by the authorities also include a set of specific safeguards directed at O'Neill.
According to a confidential email obtained by the Times, O'Neill's horses cannot in any way be treated "without a board investigator present," and that he should not allow treatment of any of his horses "by mouth or in feed without conferring with a board investigator, who will first log the treatment and discuss the reason(s) for treatment."
The Times is also reporting O'Neill must provide veterinary records for I'll Have Another and any other horses he may be running over those days at Belmont "no later than 10 a.m." each day after any treatment.
A message left by The Associated Press on O'Neill's cellphone early Thursday morning was not immediately returned.
Neill told the Times he had not been notified of the rules that appear to be set out for him.
"I'll comply," he told the newspaper by phone. "I understand they are trying to protect the horse, the betting public and the integrity of the sport."
Starting next Wednesday, all horses entered in the Belmont will have to move into a secure stakes barn at the track until after the race is run. The horses will be required to have a blood test upon arriving at the barn, and it will be reviewed that night at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board's drug lab.
Limited numbers of people associated with a horse will be allowed to be in the stakes barn, including the licensed trainer, assistant trainer, veterinarian, groom, hot walker and owners. Anyone entering a horse's stall, in contact with a horse or working on the horse will have their entry and exit logged. The stakes barn will have 24-hour security.
"Millions of race fans from around the world will be witnessing a historic spectacle at New York's beautiful Belmont Park on June 9, and the Racing and Wagering Board will ensure that the race is run in a safe and fair manner," board chairman John D. Sabini said Wednesday.
Equipment, feed, and hay among other items will be searched and checked.
All veterinarians must provide written notice of intended treatment before they perform any treatment, and investigators will monitor all treatment and items used.
The day before the Belmont no vets will be allowed to treat horses without first making an appointment with investigators. On race day, treatment will only be allowed in case of emergency or by agreement with the stewards.