After he received the trophy Jan. 8 as leading owner in Maryland, Michael Gill issued a challenge to the racing world: If he isn't voted outstanding owner for 2004, he'll be even more determined to win the title in 2005.
"I'm going to make it so they have to give it to me," Gill said. "If I have to win 700 races, then I'll win 700 races."
Gill, who spoke in the winner's circle at Pimlico Race Course, was the leading Thoroughbred owner in Maryland last year. Horses owned by Gill, 48, who lives in New Hampshire and owns a mortgage business, won 153 races last year at Pimlico and Laurel Park. The second-leading owner, John Alecci, won 27.
Gill, who also dominated owners nationally in wins and earnings, is an Eclipse Award finalist as top owner along with Stronach Stables and Sarah and Ken Ramsey. Gill also was a finalist last year after leading owners in wins and earnings in 2003.
"I don't ever see my name written when it doesn't have 'controversial' in front of it," Gill said. "But I'm OK with all that. I'm having fun still, despite everything."
Gill, who launched his far-reaching racing operation in 1999, has been at the forefront of numerous controversies, including drug violations by his trainers and conflicts with racetrack owners. He has been denied stalls at numerous tracks. In December, he filed suit against New York racing authorities to try to overturn drug positives for two horses he ran last summer at Saratoga.
"The racing fans like me," Gill said. "When I go to different tracks they come up and talk to me. My issue is with management--but not management in Maryland. This management has been a friend to me. When I struggled at different places throughout the country, Maryland was my friend. Out of all the places, no matter how big I get, no matter how many horses I get, Maryland will be my home."
Gill said he's campaigning about 400 horses, and he might expand his stable. Also, he said, he'd still love to race at the highest level and win the biggest races. He said he recently offered $2 million for the undefeated Northern California-based 3-year-old Lost in the Fog but was turned down.
Despite all the wins, Gill said he still hasn't made money in any one year. A big part of that, he said, is leasing stalls in states where tracks have denied him stalls, having to own and operate off-track training centers, and having to ship his horses to races.