The brewing battle between Mike Gill and track officials along the East Coast escalated this week with the notification from Delaware Park that horses owned by the nation's leading owner would not be allowed entry at its upcoming meet. Gill plans to file a lawsuit and promises "to come out fighting" to restore his battered reputation.
Delaware notified Gill of the decision through a letter that said state law allows the track to bar individuals from entering horses in races at its discretion. Gill said he will file a lawsuit Friday in New Hampshire against Delaware Park and racing secretary Sam Abbey for defamation of character and unfair business practices.
"I didn't want to hurt racing but they are digging a hole and leaving me in it," Gill said Thursday morning. "I have no alternative."
The twist in the saga is the latest in what Gill described as a "conspiracy" to drive him out of racing. After initially receiving word he would not be allocated stalls for the Delaware meeting, Gill purchased a 50-acre training center within a 30-minute drive of the track to get around the track."
"As soon as they found out I purchased the training center they decided to one-up me," Gill said. "It's part of a plan to get me out of the business. I know that sounds paranoid, but my business model is starting to work and I'm scaring people."
Gill said he has shook people up both at the elite level of the sport with his prodigious spending spree at 2-year-olds in training sales during the past two years and, most importantly, his aggressive claiming tactics. Trainers at Gulfstream Park have complained to track management throughout the meet, Gill said.
"Each of us has an inalienable right to be the most we can be -- why am I different?" Gill asked. "The guys that are making the noise are the ones that were the big fish before I came along. It was those guys...who made agreements with each other that said 'you don't claim from me.' They weren't part of the food chain. But the second they became part of the food chain they cracked like an egg. It's like the schoolyard bully -- the minute you stand up to him you find out he's a coward."
In addition to the action by Delaware Park, Gill said he has been denied stalls at New York Racing Association tracks and Monmouth Park. He added a verbal agreement for 40 stalls was in place at Calder Race Course but it has since been rescinded.
Controversy hit the Gill stable during the Gulfstream Park meeting when questions were raised from the improvement made by some horses claimed by Gill's trainer Mark Shuman. An investigation was conducted after one of the duo's horses, Casual Conflict, broke down during a race and was subsequently euthanized. Blood tests revealed no banned substances in the horse's system.
Gill has also taken issue with Gulfstream's handling of the incident. He said the results of the incident were received by the track Feb. 21 but were not revealed until a month later. During that time, Gill said, is when he was notified by several tracks that he would not be allowed stalls at upcoming meetings.
"They had a moral obligation to get this out immediately," Gill said. "They had the answers right from the beginning but it was a disguise to try and get us out. If they think I'm claiming too many horses, tell me. We explained ourselves and said if you find anything illegal, I'll quit. Now I have to carry this around with me forever."
Gill said he paid $995,000 for the training center, which includes a half-mile training track. He plans to invest an additional $700,000 to add a barn and refurbish the track surface.
"I got 20 2-year-olds that can't get on a track and 120 horses leaving Florida with no stalls-I'm in a bad spot," Gill admitted "But I've been in tough spots before and I'm coming out fighting. I'll get my day in court, these guys can't keep doing this."