While sports fans are rooting for I'll Have Another to win the triple crown this weekend, many are reining in their enthusiasm for the horse's owner and trainer, who have recently been under investigation by either the sport or by federal regulators.
Doug O'Neill, I'll Have Another's trainer, has a career littered with drug violations. In racing circles he is known as "Drug O'Neill" and has 14 drug violations in 14 states, according to the New York Post.
Most recently, O'Neill, 44, was suspended by the California Horse Racing Board because one of his horses had elevated levels of carbon dioxide in its blood, a sign of a drugged horse. The 45 day suspension will go into effect after the Belmont and was accompanied by a $15,000 fine. It is the fourth violation for elevated carbon dioxide levels in O'Neill's career.
More troubling for O'Neill is an analysis by The New York Times that revealed "the horses he trains break down or show signs of injury at more than twice the rate of the national average."
The triple crown spotlight has also burned owner, John Paul Reddam, who purchased I'll Have Another for $35,000 last year. Reddam, a former philosophy professor who made his money in mortgages, is now president of CashCall, a company that offers short-term, high-interest loans to people who are usually unable to secure them from the bank.
Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that CashCall has been or is accused of violating consumer protection laws in California, West Virginia, and Maryland, and has ties to a lender in South Dakota that is being pursued by the Federal Trade Commission.
The New York Times cites accusations that CashCall has employed threatening practices to collect on its loans.
"Our delinquency rates were rising," Reddam told The New York Times, "and undoubtedly we had collectors, not on anyone's instructions who went over the line. ... I agree. We have to follow the law."
Calls to O'Neill and Reddam were not immediately returned.
Although the cheers for O'Neill and Reddam may be muted, I'll Have Another and his jockey Mario Gutierrez are a pair of long shots who have captured racing's affections.
I'll Have Another, a chestnut from unproven blood lines, faced 15-to-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby and became the first winner ever to have started from post No. 19.
The horse's jockey, Mario Gutierrez, 25, faced even longer odds.
"He was basically a no-name rider. Many of us in the media and in racing circles were not sure who Mario Guiterrez was before the derby," ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards told ABC News. "He has been riding in British Columbia and Vancouver and was not a household name, was not a leading rider, was not the hot go-to jockey."
O'Neill and Reddam chose to go with Gutierrez over more experienced jockeys because of his rapport and relationship with the horse.
"It was a very remarkable thing that they kept Gutierrez on the horse for the derby, because a lot of times in racing, for these big days, big events, the owners and trainers, they all get nervous and think they have to have the big name jockey," said Edwards.