08/06/2003 12:00AM

Gill's five head may be just a start


Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner, has sent a small string of horses to Louisiana Downs, and said he may send many more to race in Louisiana.

Gill said he had sent sent five horses to Louisiana Downs in the last week and that he "would like to have 50 to 70 starting with Fair Grounds, enough to give Cole Norman and Steve Asmussen a run for their money," referring to the two dominant trainers in Louisiana.

Gill, whose Louisiana Downs string will be trained by Scott Murphy, has been a dominant player himself, but on the East Coast. He was the leading owner this past meet at Gulfstream Park, and this year leads the nation in victories, with 253, and in earnings, with $5.5 million.

Gill has never raced as far west as Louisiana, but he began to look at the market in part because of its slots-fueled purses.

"In the East, I'm saturating myself a little bit," he said. "I've got 275 horses running, and you can only run so many horses within that area."

Gill also has had some of his racing activity in the East limited. A controversial figure, he said his horses were not allotted stalls this year at Delaware Park and Calder Race Course. But that has not deterred him from his commitment to racing, and he said if he receives a suitable number of stalls at Fair Grounds, he plans on being a major force in Louisiana.

Letithappencaptain heads Rasberry

Louisiana Downs will run a rare Friday stakes. The $60,000 Elge Rasberry, which for its previous nine runnings had been held at Fair Grounds, will be run here for the first time.

In addition to the new site, the distance of the restricted race for 3-year-old fillies has changed from six furlongs to seven. The added ground would seem to suit Letithappencaptain, a closer who is looking for her fourth stakes victory this year. In her last start, she won the $50,000 Fantasia at six furlongs July 13.

"I thought she ran a good race," said Kirk LeBlanc, regular rider on Letithappencaptain. LeBlanc said, "I was a little farther back than I'd like" because of traffic down the backside, but that "it worked out all right."

LeBlanc, who is in a neck-and-neck battle with Gerard Melancon atop the rider standings at Louisiana Downs, has the mount for trainer John Taylor.

Stakes next for Gold Storm

Gold Storm, who remained perfect in three starts when he won a two-other-than allowance at Louisiana Downs on Friday, is now being pointed for the Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park on Sept. 13, said his trainer, C.W. "Bubba" Cascio.

Gold Storm has been impressive in each of his starts. He won his maiden for a claiming price of $50,000 in May when he covered five furlongs in a sharp 1:03.40. Claimed out of that race, Gold Storm returned to win an entry-level allowance from off the pace for Cascio, then was a front-running winner last Friday.

"So far he's done everything we've asked of him," said Cascio. "We're going to take him up there and test him."

* Torquilla, a stakes-placed filly in foal to Millennium Wind, brought $25,000 to top the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Sales Company's mixed sale last Sunday in Lafayette, La. Andre Regard, agent, purchased Torquilla from Millennium Farms. Overall, 115 horses were sold for receipts of $441,700. The average was $3,840.