03/28/2003 12:00AM

Gill trying to solve stall problem

Email

Michael Gill, the leading owner at Gulfstream Park this winter, is negotiating to buy a training center in Pennsylvania because tracks all along the East Coast have refused to give him stalls, Gill said this week.

The training center, a 50-acre property with a three-eighths-mile track, located near Pennsylvania's border with Maryland, will allow Gill to continue to race his 275 horses at tracks along the East Coast this spring and summer, despite the unwillingness of some tracks to make room for Gill's controversial operation.

Gill and his primary trainer, Mark Shuman, broke a record this year for most wins at the Gulfstream meet, inviting criticism and scrutiny from trainers, regulatory officials, and horseplayers along the way. Gill and Shuman have both been suspended for medication violations in the past, and, more recently, two veterinarians employed by Gill were banned from Gulfstream as a result of an investigation into the breakdown of one of Gill's horses. The investigation has revealed no wrongdoing.

Gill said on Thursday that Aqueduct, Monmouth Park, Calder Race Course, Philadelphia Park, and Delaware Park have refused to allow his horses to be stabled on their grounds. Laurel Park, however, has given two of his trainers approximately 50 stalls each, Gill said, split between Laurel and a training center at Bowie.

Racing officials at several of the tracks disputed this week that they have refused to give Gill stalls. Robert Kulina, the director of racing for Monmouth, said the track had not received a stall application from Gill. Racing officials at Calder and Delaware said that they have not yet decided which trainers will get stalls, but they acknowledged that Gill's application was not at the top of the pile.

"I can say that we've had the same horsemen here for about 30 years," said Bob Umphrey, the racing secretary at Calder. "We've had people that have been loyal to us from time immemorial, and those people come first."

Sam Abbey, the racing secretary at Delaware, declined to discuss Gill's situation this week.

Sal Sinatra, the racing secretary at Philadelphia Park, said that he planned to reject Gill's stall application by the April 12 deadline, citing incidents two years ago that were the cause of "a lot of aggravation for the racing office." He said that Gill had turned his horses over to other trainers just before the meet opened and that those horses did not run.

Mike Lakow, the racing secretary at the New York Racing Association, said that he had declined to give Gill stalls, but would not comment further.

Privately, racing officials have complained that Gill's reputation creates problems for both trainers and bettors. Gill aggressively claims horses and frequently drops them down to lower levels to give them a better chance of winning. Those horses are sometimes viewed as prohibitive favorites by many horseplayers.

"I don't think it's good when you create unbettable races, whether it's a trainer that's winning all the races or a jockey that's winning all the races," said Monmouth's Kulina. "If you can't bet on a horse and you can't bet against a horse, then we're producing something nobody wants."

Gill said that a select group of trainers has complained to racing offices about his claiming tactics and have threatened to boycott races if Gill is given stalls. No racing official would confirm his account.

Officials said that Gill will not be prohibited from entering races at their tracks. However, Gill's current trainers will be prohibited from claiming any horses at Aqueduct, because rules there limit claims to trainers stabled on the grounds.

Gill said his new training center - currently called Elk Creek Ranch - will have room for approximately 90 horses. The property will cost $995,000 and needs another $600,000 in repairs and improvements, according to Gill.