05/03/2005 12:00AM

Gill to disband his stable


Michael Gill, the high-powered horse owner who has led the country in wins and earnings since 2003, ruffling feathers during his rapid climb to the top, said Tuesday he is disbanding his stable and will exit the sport before the year is out.

Gill, who has made similar but less adamant pronouncements before, said he either would sell en masse some 250 horses he owns, or disperse them piecemeal throughout the rest of the year. Gill said that two parties, whom he declined to name, were interested in purchasing all his horses, but if a deal isn't reached, Gill will run his claiming horses at levels where they are likely to be claimed, and sell his better horses and broodmares at auction in the coming months. A farm and training facility in Pennsylvania also will go on the market.

"I went into [racing] thinking I could make a business out of it, and I still think I can," Gill said, reached Tuesday at his home mortgage business in New Hampshire. "But it's the obstacles they've put up."

There, in a nutshell, are the two reasons Gill said are driving him from the sport. Though his stable won 486 races and racked up more than $10.8 million in purses during 2004, Gill concedes his racing operations lost money. The "obstacles" Gill references have come from racetracks and racing jurisdictions that Gill believes have singled him out for unfair treatment. Gill has been denied stall space at various tracks the country; he purchased the Pennsylvania farm in order to ship horses to race at tracks along the East Coast, including the New York circuit, which has declined to allot Gill stalls.

Gill also believes his trainers have been unjustly hit with positive tests for illegal race-day medications. In one such incident last summer at Saratoga, Gill legally challenged a pair of positive tests and had the rulings thrown out.

"All I've asked for is a level playing field," Gill said.

Gill denied that general financial pressures are forcing him from the sport.

"My mortgage business is doing as well as any mortgage business in the country," he said.

Gill narrowly missed setting a one-year record for wins last season, and failed to win the Eclipse Award for leading owner. A relentlessly competitive man, Gill coveted both achievements, and after starting 2005 with close to 500 horses, he began scaling back in February. Now, he said his involvement with a sport he once sought to rule is coming to a close.

"I will never buy another horse again," Gill said. "My goal is to be the best at whatever I do. If I can't be the best, I don't want to do it."