08/08/2013 12:24PM

Monticello: Trainer Danny Gill having another strong season

Geri Schwarz
Trainer Danny Gill

After winning the Monticello Raceway training title by one win on the final day of racing last year, Danny Gill has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. This year the 57-year-old trainer is on a tear and has already harnessed 125 winners, six more than it took to win the title last season.

“I’ve got 27 horses on the grounds, most of them owned by the Hall brothers, Ed and Jake. With a huge stable I’m able start a lot of horses and have been lucky enough to rack-up a lot of wins,” Gill said.

Although Monticello Raceway only has live harness action four days a week, Gill has been able to accumulate anywhere from five to eight wins on an average weekly program.

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His driver of choice is Jimmy Marohn, Jr. and his stalwart horse this year has been Haroun Hanover, a claiming pacer who doesn’t pull-up after the race is over and one who needs the starting gate to stop him. That altered son of  Bettor’s Delight has already won 18 races, second best in North America..

“Before we got him last fall they were towing him and he didn’t race very well.  Although he’s real hard to get along with on the track, we manage to jog him early in the morning when there aren’t many horses around. It seems to have done the trick because he’s been a terror in the 10,000-$12,500 claimers here,” said Gill.

But Gill says his best horse is the 5-year-old pacing mare Rock N Load, who races at Yonkers Raceway because there are no classes for her at the Mighty M.

“She races at Yonkers (Raceway) in non-winners of $25,000 (in) last six (starts) and two weeks ago she won in 1:54 2/5 at Yonkers with Brian Sears driving,” Gill explained. “This year she’s already earned over $66,000.”

Before coming to Monticello Raceway two years ago, Danny Gill raced at Plainridge Racecourse in Massachusetts and in Delaware at Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. He was relatively unknown, which is probably not a fair assessment since Gill had over 500 training wins prior to his move to the Mighty M.  However, in one and a half seasons here, he has harnessed 257 winners, a number which will grow before the curtain comes down at Monticello on December  31.

And speaking of the curtain coming down it darn near did on Gill.

“About two and a half months ago I was jogging and I got a pain in my chest which felt like someone was hitting on me,” he related. “It went away after a while but that pressure came back later that night, so I drove myself to the hospital and they admitted me immediately.

“They determined I had clogged arteries and they moved me later that night to Westchester Medical (in Valhalla, NY), where the next day I had triple by-pass surgery.

Asked if he was afraid to go under the knife, Gill admitted that didn’t bother him nearly as much as his diagnosis did.

“I’m a real lucky guy because five days later I not only was out of the hospital but back at the barn. Oh, I didn’t do any work there, I just was there making sure everything was done correctly. You know, no shorting,” he joked.

Although he supervised at the barn, he still went to the paddock when his stock raced.

“I didn’t do anything physical at the barn or even in the paddock, but I did ride the cart to the winners circle for a picture when my horses won.”

And Danny got lots of rides.

However, Gill is back in full action and has been - perhaps foolishly so - for the past six or seven weeks.

Earlier this year, Gill and fellow trainer Bob Lounsbury, whose Tracys Song has 21 wins this season, were vying for top training honors but lately Gill has pulled ahead by some 20 victories. They kid with each other daily and Lounsbury jokes that his UTR (training average-.490) is better than Gill’s (.420).

“If I can’t out-train you, I‘ll out-start you,” Gill told Lounsbury jokingly. “We get along great and are good friends,” he continued on the relationship.

To many, Gill may seem like a ‘Johnny Come Lately’ but that is so far from the truth. He grew up in the sport.

“My mom, Betty Gill, was a driver,” he said. “She was a great woman driver when few women were even in the sport. She won over 800 races.”

But Gill’s knowledge wasn’t limited to what he learned from his mom.

“I spent eight years on the Grand Circuit working for Del Miller, Glen Garnsey and Howard Beissinger.  I learned from the best,” said Gill.

Those who have attended the races at Monticello, or have seen Mighty M simulcasts, perhaps have noticed that Gill is always wearing an orange colored t-shirt when having his picture taken in the winner’s circle. 

“I have over 40 of them and I wear them because I know they bring me luck,” he said.

That may be the case. Luck is great but talent goes a long way.

-edited release(Monticello)