Before the 2012 Kentucky Derby, Doug O'Neill had won most of Southern California's top races in the handicap division with Lava Man as well as Breeders' Cup races with Stevie Wonderboy, Thor's Echo, and Maryfield. O'Neill cemented his place in the Thoroughbred racing record books on May 5, 2012, when he saddled Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner I'll Have Another for his 1 1/2-length victory in the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The Flower Alley colt followed by winning a thrilling edition of the Preakness Stakes (G1) over familiar rival Bodemeister, setting up a bid for the elusive Triple Crown that was thwarted by a career-ending injury before the Belmont Stakes (G1).
In 2013, O'Neill returns to the Kentucky Derby with Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, the top California contender for the roses.
O'Neill credits his brother Dennis, his chief assistant, with getting him into training. The O'Neill career path led him directly from high school to the track and jobs with Jude Feld, Hector Palma and Doug Peterson. He opened his own stable in 1994 when he was in his mid-20s. O'Neill has assembled a strong team, which includes veteran assistant Leandro Moro, to operate his stable at Santa Anita. The barn's first major stakes winner was Classy Cara, who finished first in the 2000 Fantasy Stakes and Honeymoon Handicap. In August 2004 at Del Mar, O'Neill was involved in one of the greatest claims in racing history with Lava Man. Claimed for $50,000, he was retired four years later after he had earned more than $5 million. In 2006, Lava Man swept California's three top races for older horses, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic.
Photo Courtesy of Benoit Photo