02/03/2010 12:00AM

Gill removing his horses from Penn National


Embattled Thoroughbred owner Michael Gill said Wednesday that the 40 or so horses he has had stabled at Penn National Race Course are being moved to his private farm as he continues to liquidate his stable, a process sparked by the controversy in which he has been embroiled in Pennsylvania since Jan. 23.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission ruled off Gill at Penn National, allowing the track to avert an apparent jockeys' boycott and a major disruption in the Wednesday night program at the Grantville, Pa., track. Gill had planned to run horses in four of the nine Wednesday races, but Penn jockeys, who have gone on record as saying they fear for their safety in races in which Gill's horses are racing, were prepared to boycott, making those races impossible to run.

The Tuesday letter and formal ruling from Michael Dillon, executive secretary of the commission, says that Gill's ejection from Penn "is based upon information received by the commission from the Penn National jockeys and the HBPA [Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association] regarding an ongoing controversy which will jeopardize the orderly conduct of the race meet." It further states in part that "your presence, your trainer(s)' presence, and your horses' presence at Penn" is deemed to be "detrimental to the best interests of racing."

The Tuesday letter asked Gill to plan on attending a meeting among himself and representatives of the track, the jockeys, the HBPA, and the commission on or about Feb. 23 at the commission offices in Harrisburg.

Gill, 54, said he believes he is being unfairly singled out by the commission and by Penn National and that he "absolutely" is considering a lawsuit against Penn National and/or the commission, citing a possible antitrust aspect to his banishment. Gill sued Delaware Park over a similar ban in 2003 in a case that eventually was settled out of court.

"To me, all this means is they found nothing on me and anyone could be thrown out for whatever they consider to be 'the best interest of racing,' " Gill said. "If they had even the littlest thing to hang on me, believe me, they would have."

The commission ban does not preclude Gill from racing at Philadelphia Park, where his stable has been and will continue to be active for the foreseeable future. There have been no reports of major complaints about Gill from the Bensalem, Pa., track.

Gill, who does not have stalls at Philadelphia Park, said his entire stable is being consolidated at his 140-stall private training facility in Oxford, Pa., in the southeastern part of the state. Private farms do not fall under the jurisdiction of the commission.

Gill announced Monday that he intends to sell off all of his 100-plus Thoroughbreds and other racing-related holdings because of the latest controversy. He said Wednesday he already has sold "about 15, maybe more" of the horses since deciding to disperse.

"I'm just going to have the horses trained there at the farm, sell some, have some claimed, and just keep going until I don't have any more," he said, adding that anyone interested in his horses can contact his trainer, Tony Adamo.

The commission has been investigating the breakdowns of Gill's horses at Penn in recent months. The last breakdown, by Laughing Moon on Jan. 23, led to jockeys refusing to ride in races in which Gill's horses were scheduled to race.

Gill said he was informed at a Saturday meeting with officials and veterinarians from the track that necropsies for Laughing Moon and for Melodeeman, who also suffered a catastrophic breakdown Jan. 21 at Penn, uncovered no wrongdoing.

At Penn, six Gill horses had suffered catastrophic breakdowns since Oct. 1, according to Daily Racing Form data, while another nine were pulled up, badly eased, or went lame in races during that period. Overall, Gill won with 370 of 2,247 starters in 2009 and has maintained that, aside from Penn National, he had only one catastrophic breakdown during the entire year at other tracks.

Gill has led North American owners in wins four times since 2003, including last year and in 2005, when he was voted the Eclipse Award for top owner.