06/14/2005 11:00PM

Gill departure frees up stall space

Megantic, winner of the Battlefield Stakes at Monmouth last year, has arrived from Florida.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - Owner Michael Gill removed his 36 horses from Monmouth Park over the weekend.

Gill, the leading owner at Monmouth the last two seasons, relocated the New Jersey division to the Bowie training center in Maryland.

Tim Ritchey could be one of the trainers filling the vacant stalls.

Ritchey listed Monmouth as a possible destination for Afleet Alex following the colt's victory in the Belmont Stakes. Ritchey has said he will point Afleet Alex to Monmouth's $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 7.

The winner of two-thirds of the Triple Crown could arrive here well before the race.

"Tim has definite interest in Monmouth," said J.J. Graci, Ritchey's media manager. "He has put everything on hold at the moment. It depends on how many Monmouth can accommodate."

With Gill gone, Monmouth has stalls available. Ritchey has indicated he wants a separate division of about 15 horses apart from his core stable of 43 at Delaware Park.

Graci said Ritchey is also considering Belmont as an option for a division.

Vance expected, Pointer arrives

The possible arrival of Ritchey was only one of several trainer developments at Monmouth.

David Vance will ship in from Churchill Downs in July, while Norman Pointer has already returned to the Jersey shore.

Pointer trains for Runnin Horse Farms, Monmouth's leading owners from 1999-2002.

Pointer wound up with 14 2-year-olds this season and missed the start of Monmouth to remain at Calder to get the youngsters sorted out.

Pointer opted to split the divisions.

He left most of the younger stock in Florida and came north with his solid older runners like Megantic, winner of Monmouth's Battlefield Stakes last year, and Hotstufanthensome.

"That's why I came back up," Pointer said. "You don't get to use them down there."

Serey close to being licensed

Juan Serey could also return to the Monmouth backstretch.

Serey is close to obtaining a conditional training license from the New Jersey Racing Commission.

"Juan Serey filed an application and, after a review, we have decided to issue him a conditional trainer's license," said Mike Vukcevich, the commission's deputy director.

Serey must still agree to the conditions, which Vukcevich refused to specify. Neither Vukcevich nor attorney Dennis Drazin, who represented Serey before the commission, thought the conditions would pose a barrier to Serey's return.

The stage appears set for Serey, the winner of five straight Monmouth titles starting in 1995, to stage a possible comeback.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board reinstated Serey earlier this year. The board revoked his license in 2003 for "violations of financial obligations."

Serey's difficulties began when his brother Mario Serey charged that Juan improperly took money from his horseman's account and transferred horses into his name.

Serey eventually filed for bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court discharged all damage claims from his brother.

Atticus's Woman works for Crank it Up

Trainer Tim Hills worked Atticus's Woman three furlongs on the turf in 37.60 seconds at Monmouth Wednesday in preparation for the filly's grass debut in Saturday's $55,000 Crank It Up Stakes.

"The filly handled it well," Hills said. "She wanted to do a lot more, but we're running her back pretty quickly. I just wanted to get her familiar with it."

Atticus's Woman, who last raced June 4, has a win and a third in three career starts. The Crank It Up at five furlongs will be her first stakes appearance.

Hills said he hopes pedigree will carry Atticus's Woman. She is by Atticus, a son of international turf star Nureyev. The mare is Binnopoly, a daughter of Fast Play who sired Hills's former turf sprint star Joe's Son Joey.

"I've got to think we're turf on turf," Hills said.

Diavla, Grinch top feature

The $44,000 allowance feature at Monmouth Friday shapes up as a battle between Diavla and Grinch.

Both 4-year-old fillies finished in the money in their most recent starts at Monmouth and ran Beyer figures that stamp them the leading contenders in the field of seven fillies and mares going 1 mile and 70 yards.

Diavla was third in her season debut. She steadied at the eighth pole and flattened out in the final stages.

That effort earned a 79 Beyer in her first start for trainer Kelly Breen.

Grinch rallied for second in her first Monmouth outing of the season for trainer Joe Orseno. Her closing move resulted in an 80 Beyer, the best last-race figure in the field.

That was her first race since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct on March 25.

Grinch should feel right at home here. She is 2-2-0 in five Monmouth starts.

Kuanyan, trained by John Kimmel, is the unknown factor in the race. This will be the first route race of the 5-year-old's career.