Trainer Doug O’Neill, one of Thoroughbred racing’s brightest young stars, celebrated a unique career double during the early days of the 2007 Fairplex Park meet.
On September 9, the 39-year-old conditioner won his 1,000th race when California-bred Meetmeinthewoods captured a six-furlong allowance optional claiming event at the historic Pomona oval. The 4-year-old filly, who ran third in the track’s 2006 CTBA Marian Stakes, was purchased for $30,000 by O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, at the 2005 Barretts May Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, which was conducted by Barretts Equine Limited in the sales pavilion adjacent to Fairplex Park.
Campaigned by Dennis O’Neill and co-owner J. Paul Reddam, Meetmeinthewoods has won three of 13 starts and $179,536. Her 2-year-old half-brother, Tribal Star, topped all state-bred offerings with a $430,000 pricetag at this year’s Barretts May Sale, and is preparing for his racing debut with another trainer.
O’Neill is no stranger to the Fairplex winner’s circle. The Santa Monica resident collected his very first stakes trophy in 1996 with CTBA Marian Stakes heroine Tanks Forthemusic, and went on to lead the annual Pomona trainer standings by number of wins from 2002 through 2005. He is currently leading the 2007 meet by wins as well.
The jovial horseman has twice been honored as Trainer of the Year by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association in recognition of his outstanding achievements with locally bred runners. His biggest success to date has come with reigning two-time California Horse of the Year Lava Man, a $5.2-million earner and seven-time Grade 1 winner who, in 2004, dominated Fairplex Park’s Derby Trial Stakes in his first start for O’Neill after being claimed at Del Mar for $50,000.
O’Neill has also trained the winners of two Eclipse Awards — Thoroughbred racing’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. Last year, he guided California-bred Thor’s Echo to the Champion Sprinter title; in 2005, he managed Champion 2-Year Old Male Stevie Wonderboy for the late entertainment industry mogul Merv Griffin.
The victory by Meetmeinthewoods was actually O’Neill’s 998th win in North America. He captured the $2-million Japan Cup Dirt with Fleetstreet Dancer in 2003 and the $1-million Godolphin Mile in the United Arab Emirates with Spring At Last earlier this year. In total, horses trained by O’Neill have earned $51 million in purse money.