PHRC Levels No Charges Against Ejected Gill

PHRC Levels No Charges Against Ejected Gill
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Michael Gill

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, in a release, said Thoroughbred owner Michael Gill was ejected from Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course to protect the orderly conduct of racing but made no mention of any safety-related charges against Gill.

Gill’s trainer, Anthony Adamo, also was ejected. They remain licensed, however, and are allowed to continue to race at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack in Pennsylvania.

The release said the PHRC has received “multiple reports” that the presence of Gill and Adamo caused disruptions at Penn National. The commission cited letters received from Penn National management, jockeys, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The release noted jockeys refused to ride in races in which Gill's horses were entered, but made no reference to safety concerns. The commission, as it stated in an ejection notice sent to Gill Feb. 2, said it determined the presence of Gill and his trainer “would disrupt the orderly conduct of a race meet, which would create the potential for an adverse and detrimental impact on racing.”

In a statement, PHRC acting executive secretary Michael Dillon said integrity is a top priority.

“Ensuring the integrity of racing is a top priority for the (commission),” Dillon said. “With the significant investments the commonwealth has made to ensure Pennsylvania is a premier racing destination, it is our duty to protect against any known disruptions to Thoroughbred racing.”

Jockeys cited recent breakdowns and safety concerns at Penn National as reasons for not riding Gill-owned horses or competing in races against Gill’s horses. At Philly Park, however, there doesn’t appear to be an issue with safety; different jockeys are riding Gill’s horses there with no word of a boycott.

Gill has no stalls at Philly Park. His horses ship from his training center in Oxford, Pa.

A PHRC investigation is said to be ongoing, though regulators haven’t publicly discussed the results of a Jan. 30 meeting attended by Gill and racing officials. Gill said necropsies of two horses that broke down recently came back “clean.”

The actual number of Gill horses alleged to have broken down isn’t known as The Blood-Horse has yet to acquire documentation on catastrophic breakdowns versus horses eased or pulled up. The PHRC hasn’t released such statistics.

Gill offers one number, while the track offers another. There also is conflicting information as to the number of breakdowns in horses trained by others at Penn National.

All Pennsylvania Thoroughbred tracks participate in The Jockey Club Equine Injury Database. Penn National has information on catastrophic breakdowns going back about 15 years, officials said.

Tracks participate in the national database voluntarily with the understanding track-specific information won't be released to the public unless tracks decide to do so.

When asked whether equine breakdown information specific to recent developments would be released, Penn National Gaming Inc. vice president of public affairs Eric Schippers said: "The national average for dirt tracks ranges from 2.25 to 3 per thousand but it is a moving target. Penn National last year averaged 2.69 – well within the national industry average. Mr. Gill’s rate last year was well over 10."

Gill told The Blood-Horse his stable rate for catastrophic breakdowns per 1,000 starts was about 2.6 last year. He also said he had only one catastrophic breakdown at tracks other than Penn National.

Gill had 49 stalls at Penn National. He said as of Feb. 22, he had 10 empty stalls because the track wasn’t allowing him to bring in stock. He would rotate horses from his training center to the racetrack.

Penn National, owned by PNGI, is private property, yet the PHRC issued the ejection notice. In West Virginia, PNGI-owned Charles Town Races & Slots ejected three individuals from its property, and the cases are now in court.

The West Virginia Racing Commission and the horsemen are challenging a court ruling that said the racing commission can’t conduct hearings into racetrack ejections. The licenses of the three individuals weren’t revoked by the commission.

In 2005, Gill left racing after a run-in at Delaware Park, where he was allowed to race but not stable. At the time, his trainer was Gamaliel Vazquez, who at one time trained for Delaware Park owner William Rickman.

Vazquez, who accused the racing secretary of asking him to scratch healthy horses, was ejected from the track. At the time, then-racing secretary Sam Abbey told The Blood-Horse: “I’ve had enough of Mike Gill.”

Gill soon after said he was quitting in part because of the “arrogance of racetrack owners.” On Feb. 2, he said nothing has changed.

“I dealt with it at Delaware Park—the agenda is always the same,” Gill said. “The horsemen, if they say anything, are (kicked) out. You have to understand how hard it is to break in there. Penn National has an agenda, the jockeys have an agenda, and I happen to be it.”

Other trainers at Penn National haven’t spoken publicly about Gill, though some of their negative comments have surfaced in chat rooms and in response to blogs. The Pennsylvania HBPA simply said it’s awaiting the results of the PHRC investigation.

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