05/11/2004 11:00PM

Gill pulls up stakes in California


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Michael Gill, who led the nation's owners in wins last year, is disbanding his California stable, which was aggressively acquired through the claiming ranks in the last seven months.

John Morrissey, who works with Gill on his racing operation, said that the 28 horses that Gill has at Hollywood Park will be sent to Maryland, where they will be dispersed to other trainers. Gill will not have any horses remaining in California, Morrissey said.

Trainer Nick Canani, who has worked privately for Gill since last summer, said the horses are scheduled to leave on Friday. Canani declined to comment on whether he would move to Maryland or whether he would remain in California.

Gill did not return two phone calls requesting comment.

Gill's stable has had modest results since he began racing in California at the 2003 Hollywood Park fall meeting. Through Wednesday, Gill had 18 winners from 153 starters, an 11.7 win percentage. The stable did not have any stakes-caliber runners.

"The horses just haven't been winning any races," Morrissey said. "We haven't had any luck out there. We aren't competitive. We've won one race at the Hollywood Park meeting. It's been disappointing that that's the way it is.

"We run in what we think is the right spot and they're not winning. It's not that we wanted to do this."

Canani said that Gill had his final starter in Deeliteful Topper, who finished fourth in an $8,000 claiming race on Wednesday at Hollywood Park.

Gill has occasionally shipped stock out of California since he began claiming horses during the week of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita last fall. Even though Gill has only 28 horses remaining in California, Gill claimed more than 100 horses in California.

From late October to early December, Gill claimed 52 horses. Often, two claims would be submitted for a horse, one listing Gill as owner and another listing Gill and Canani as partners. With two claims, Gill had a better chance of getting the horse if there were competing claims.

Morrissey said that the horses from Gill's California stable are likely to reappear at Charles Town, Delaware, Monmouth Park, and the New York circuit.

Gill has been criticized for his aggressive claiming tactics, which has drawn the ire of racing officials at some tracks who were angered that he took horses to other circuits. Morrissey declined to speculate on whether Gill would return to California or what kind of reception he would receive if Gill reapplied for stalls.

While Gill will take a large stable out of Southern California, some of the claims were for horses that turned out to be non-competitive.

"We're disappointed that he's leaving," said Hollywood Park racing secretary Martin Panza. "It doesn't help the Southern California circuit to take away 60 to 80 winners, but the man has made a lot of bad claims."

Extended rest for Rhythm Mad

Rhythm Mad, who won his first stakes in the Jim Murray Memorial Handicap last Saturday, may not start again until the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap in late August, trainer Bruce Headley said.

In the Murray over 1 1/2 miles on turf, Rhythm Mad, 4, rallied from fourth to finish a neck in front of the 8-year-old Continental Red.

"He's really tired," Headley said. "That old horse made him run his guts out."

Rhythm Mad has emerged as a top turf marathoner in California in the last month. Rhythm Mad finished second in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita on April 18.

Owned by Headley and Jess Jackson, Rhythm Mad was acquired in France last winter.

Lydgate headed to Ascot

Lydgate, the winner of the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on April 30, will make his next start in the Group 2 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in England on June 15, trainer Eoin Harty said.

Owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud, Lydgate will not start again until the $267,00 King's Stand Stakes, which is run over a straight five furlongs on turf.

"I've been told to have him there," Harty said.

Harty said that Lydgate will not ship to England until June 9, less than a week before the race. "That's the way they do it over here, so I'll do it in reverse," he said. "If it works going West, I'll do it going East."

Lydgate, 4, is likely to stay in England. He has been nominated for the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket, England over six furlongs on July 8.

Kona Gold returns in new role

Kona Gold, the champion sprinter of 2000, has rejoined trainer Headley's stable as a stable pony.

Kona Gold was retired last year after he was no longer competitive in top-class sprints. After spending several months being schooled as a pony by Julie Adair, Kona Gold was shipped to Headley's sable at Santa Anita.

"I've never had a horse that everyone yells and talks to," Headley said. "People pet him and give him carrots. He's quite a character."

Kona Gold won 14 of 30 starts and made five consecutive appearances in the Breeders' Cup Sprint from 1998-2002.

Olivares ends riding comeback

Frank Olivares, 54, has retired from riding after an 11-month comeback.

Previously a trainer, Olivares resumed riding last June but struggled to attract mounts. His best meeting came at Santa Anita earlier this year when he rode three winners. At the current Hollywood Park meeting, Olivares is winless with four mounts.

Olivares left training in the spring of 2003 to resume riding.

In the first part of his riding career, Olivares rode several stakes winners, including Croeso in the 1983 Florida Derby.

Olivares said he will work at a car dealership in Monrovia, near Santa Anita, and would like to do television commentary on TVG.