Michael Gill, North America's leading owner by races and money won in 2003 and 2004, said he is getting out of the business because of what he calls the "dirty politics" of the industry.
"I just don't want to deal with it anymore," said Gill, who has threatened to leave the ownership ranks in the past. "All I've done is invest my money and try to make it run like a business, and I've been hit with roadblocks everywhere I've gone. Lies. False tests. These track owners feel that this game belongs to them and they can manipulate it.
"Long term, I'm out by the end of the year. Short term, it could be as early as today."
Gill said he is offering his entire operation -- over 200 horses in training, 30 broodmares, 50 foals and yearlings, and a training center with stalls for 130 horses -- as a single package. If no buyer steps forward, Gill said, he plans to sell his breeding stock and racing prospects at public auction this fall, and put his claiming horses in spots where he hopes they will be claimed.
The New Hampshire native has been denied stalls at several tracks and subsequently has filed at least three lawsuits since 2003. An antitrust suit against Delaware Park was settled with the track agreeing to let Gill race at Delaware but not allowing him to stable there. But an incident involving the racing office led to two of Gill's horses being scratched from the Delaware Park opening-day program April 30.
Two horses, Miles of Glory and Northern Air, were entered at Delaware Park April 25 under Gill's name for trainer Gamaliel Vazquez. On April 29, Gill said, Delaware Park racing secretary Sam Abbey called his racing manager and said to have Vazquez fill out a scratch sheet for both horses, saying they had colicked.
Vazquez, who trained for Delaware Park owner William Rickman before going to work for Gill in 2003, said he refused to falsify any documents.
"That would put on paper that I'm lying," Vazquez said. "I can't do that. I can't lie to the stewards."
Vazquez said Abbey then called him and repeated his request. "I said I'm not going to do that'," Vazquez said. "Sam said, 'Well, they are scratched.' I said I need you to send me something in writing that they are scratched. If I don't send my horses, then I'm in trouble. He never sent anything."
Vazquez shipped the two horses to Delaware Park the morning of April 30 and said each passed a veterinarian's pre-race exam. But a racing office employee said the horses had been scratched.
"I called the stewards, and they said I did the right thing by sending the horses and not filing a false scratch," Vazquez said. "They said the problem was with management and not the stewards or the commission."
John Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Racing Commission, distanced himself from the incident. "The issue was Gammy Vazquez," Wayne said. "He apparently has been ejected and barred from Delaware Park for management prerogative reasons. I don't think they have to give a reason. Sam Abbey told him he was persona non grata. The commission is not involved in this."
"Sam Abbey asked us to lie," Vazquez said, "and that's defrauding the public. If you've got other reasons, tell me. But don't ask me to lie."
Vazquez said he has a clean record and was never told he was barred from Delaware Park.
"When I went there in 2001, I was told I had to take (Rickman's) horses or I don't train in Delaware. During that time, everybody was afraid to claim horses from Rickman. You do that and you get booted off the grounds. Everybody is afraid to stand up to him. The horsemen's association is afraid of him. Everybody."
Abbey refused to discuss the scratching of the Vazquez-trained horses. "I've had enough of Mike Gill," he said. "You need to talk with (general manager) Bill Fasy about this." Fasy did not return a call from The Blood-Hors
"This is why I'm leaving the business," Gill said. "The arrogance of these track owners. I'm naturally a fighter, and I've been fighting this for years. I've spent millions of dollars. But I've got five kids, and it's not fair to them or to my wife. If I turn around and quit, it may appear these track owners won. But what happened is racing lost."