11/19/2004 12:00AM

Gill to stable at Oaklawn

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Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner, is sending a full barn of horses to Oaklawn Park. The Hot Springs, Ark., track is known for its active claim box and Gill is known for his aggressive claiming practices.

Gill's stable has been allotted the maximum 40 stalls, and trainer Mark Shuman is the leading candidate to oversee the outfit. Gill said he is also interviewing a couple of others for the post. Shuman is one of Gill's chief trainers and is based on a farm in Pennsylvania.

"We're welcoming [Gill] and quite a few others," Pat Pope, racing secretary at Oaklawn, said. The meet opens Jan. 21. "He'll bring quality horses, and I know everywhere he goes he seems to trade horses."

Claiming is a popular pastime at Oaklawn, where Gill has never raced on a full-time basis. Pope estimates that on average four to five horses a day are claimed during the meet.

"It's a good fit for me," said Gill. "I go [to a meet] and buy horses, sell horses, and claim horses. That's my sense of how to do this business, and [officials] assured me that's how people do business there."

Gill said aside from Oaklawn's claiming reputation, he was drawn to the track because of its rich program for 3-year-olds. He was negotiating to buy at least two proven 2-year-olds earlier this week. He also wants to bring some of his better older horses to the meet, including Forest Music and Highway Prospector.

Gill said Oaklawn was attractive for one other reason. He wants to spread out his 440-horse racing stable more in the coming year in order to be effective in his goal of setting a record for owner wins in a year. One of the tracks he branched out to this year was Lone Star Park.

Gill said he wants to break Dan Lasater's record of 494 wins by an owner in a year this year, and would like to start the process all over again in January. He had won 432 races through Thursday. Lasater set his record in 1974.

"I'm trying to get the world record for wins," said Gill. "I'm [63] away right now, and I'm averaging 10 1/2 wins a week."

Aside from Gill, other new faces expected for the meet include D. Wayne Lukas, who has asked for stalls at Oaklawn.