12/02/2003 12:00AM

Gill's winter plans include New York


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Mike Gill, who dominated south Florida racing last winter en route to being the country's leading owner in wins and money won, has his sights set on New York this winter.

Though Gill will not have horses stabled in New York, he plans to be very active during the Aqueduct winter meet, according to trainer Mark Shuman. Gill has 141 horses with Shuman at the Elk Creek Training Center near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, about a four-hour van ride from Aqueduct.

"Mr. Gill wants to find out what the record is for wins at a winter meet and double it," said Shuman, who went 3-3-0 from 19 starters during Aqueduct's main track meet that ended Sunday.

What that record is, exactly, is unclear.

Last winter, Gill obliterated the record for wins by an owner at a Gulfstream Park meeting, with 88. But he also sparked controversy by claiming so many horses off others and touched off a maelstrom when one of his veterinarians amputated a leg from one of Gill's horses who had been euthanized after breaking down during a race.

As a result of an investigation that ensued from that incident, Gill has a lawsuit pending against Gulfstream Park and will not be racing there this winter. Gill recently moved his horses out of a training center adjacent to Calder Race Course in south Florida and planned on sending some to Fair Grounds.

Shuman said he will be concentrating primarily on New York and Charles Town this winter. Gill, who has won 401 races and $8,612,204 in purse money through Dec. 1, also has horses based in Maryland with John Robb.

Shuman admits it will be a disadvantage having to ship horses for four hours. In November, he had to scratch a horse because the horse van got stuck in traffic. The NYRA has previously denied Gill stalls in the past and Shuman said he was denied again this winter. But Mike Lakow, the NYRA racing secretary, said Shuman never applied, and also noted that all 433 stalls at Aqueduct are full.

Shuman said he hopes to at least be able to get some ship-in stalls in the receiving barn, and Lakow said he would work with Shuman on that. Since he does not have stalls at a NYRA track, Shuman is not eligible to claim. The only time he may claim a horse is after a horse is claimed from him.

Shuman said he thinks the bad weather this winter might be beneficial to him because his training center provides indoor gallops for his horses.

"I hope it's a bad winter," Shuman said. "When they lose the racetrack we'll be able to use our indoor gallops. Maybe the disadvantage we have of shipping will be offset by that."

Shuman entered four horses for Wednesday and five more for Thursday. Shuman also plans to run Last Intention in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County Handicap.

Shuman has several live runners for Thursday. In the second race, Copelan's Number takes a drop in class and returns to his preferred distance of six furlongs. In the seventh, Shuman will run either Denimsanddiamonds or Smoking Wine, and both have the speed to be a factor. In the featured money allowance/optional claiming eighth race, Graze is a threat from off the pace in a wide-open race.

Snake Mountain is heavyweight

Snake Mountain, whose dominance of the handicap division here last winter included a victory in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap, will seek a repeat Saturday, when the $100,000 Queens County is run for the 98th time. Snake Mountain will be the starting highweight at 119 pounds under Richard Migliore.

On Monday, Snake Mountain worked seven furlongs in 1:29.85 over Belmont's training track in company with stablemate Parnell Square. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Snake Mountain needs company in order to get the most out of his works.

Snake Mountain will be making the second start off a layoff in the Queens County. After tailing off last spring, Snake Mountain was put away for the summer and did not return until Oct. 24, when he won a classified allowance at Belmont by one-half length.

Others expected to run in the Queens County are Country Be Gold (114 pounds), Thunder Blitz (114), Unforgettable Max (114), Peekskill (112), and Patriot's Song (110). Possible starters include Presidentialaffair (116) and Newfoundland (112).

Puzzlement to wait for Florida

Trainer Allen Jerkens considered bringing Puzzlement back to the races in the Queens County but opted against it. Instead, Puzzlement was scheduled to ship to Florida on Thursday.

Puzzlement could make his next start in either the Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Calder on Dec. 27 or the Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream a week later. Both races are Grade 3, $100,000 events, with the nine-furlong Hooper a sixteenth of a mile further than the Hal's Hope.

Puzzlement, who won the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, has not raced since finishing third in the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 7. Puzzlement came out of that race very sick, according to Jerkens, and needed more time to get race ready.

Kelly, Evening Attire get past DQ

Evening Attire, who won the 2001 Queens County, was the assigned highweight for this year's running at 123 pounds. However, he will not run, since he just raced last week. He was disqualified from first in Friday's $582,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Pat Kelly was still smarting from the stewards' decision Monday morning, but said neither he nor his owners planned to appeal.

"They both drifted out a couple of horse paths," Kelly said. "They never really bumped, and [Javier Castellano on Quest] never stopped riding. There were 30-mile-an-hour winds, snow flurries, rain, slop, I don't know. I've been involved in a lot worse, where the stewards hadn't even looked at it.''

Kelly said Evening Attire came out of the race fine and will be pointed to a winter campaign in New York. Kelly also said he might look at the Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 17 for Evening Attire's next start. Evening Attire won that race in 2002.