02/24/2004 1:00AM

Slow meet may send Gill packing


ARCADIA, Calif. - The weather forecast Thursday at Santa Anita calls for continued rain, yet little has dampened the winter-meet claiming enthusiasm of owner Michael Gill. Gill set up a California division late last year, and this winter at Santa Anita, trainer Nick Canani and he have claimed dozens of horses and won a handful of races.

Gill and Canani start two Thursday - longshot in race 6. Fun Meeting You and Kolob, both geldings, are among the 37 horses Gill has claimed during the meet, at a total cost of $1,501,500. Gill has had nine horses claimed away from him, at a cost of $414,500. The net addition to the Gill stable this winter - 27 horses at a cost of more than $1 million.

Gill's long-term commitment to California remains unclear in light of the stable's modest win total this meet - five wins from just 36 starters. Some expect that Gill will depart California after the Santa Anita meet ends April 18. At least until then, the operation is expected to continue to claim at the current rate of nearly one horse a day. Five of the eight races Thursday are claiming races, including a split of a $12,500 claiming race in which Gill has a runner in each.

Fun Meeting You, a 9-year-old gelding, had not raced in 17 months when Gill claimed him Feb. 7 for $10,000. Fun Meeting You finished last of 10 and must improve to handle six rivals Thursday in race 4. Gill and Canani have a better shot two races later. Kolob, a 7-year-old gelding, had not raced in more than nine months when Gill claimed him for $10,000 from the same Feb. 7 race. Kolob raced gate to wire that day, a style that gives him a license to steal race 6 on Thursday.

The seventh race is the best race Thursday, a first-level allowance for fillies and mares at seven furlongs. Cyber Slew is the likely favorite after a third-place finish under similar conditions. A California-bred filly, Cyber Slew has won 2 of 9 for trainer Doug O'Neill and enters as the high-figure filly.

Cyber Slew's rivals include Spirit of Nature, whose comeback win Jan. 25 was not the least bit flattered when Neighbora, whom she beat by three-quarters of a length, returned Sunday to finish second again. Borasca is the speed of the field, though seven furlongs may stretch her stamina. Ma Noblesse, Ordained Magic, Double Quack, Run Rebecca Run, Touch Silk and Golden K K complete the field.