06/12/2001 11:00PM

DRF's around the ovals (6/13)


Secret Romeo risks win streak in Spartan

MUSKEGON, Mich. - Secret Romeo, Michigan's top 2-year-old of 2000, will try to duplicate his victory last time out in the Lansing Stakes when he faces nine state-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings in Friday's $45,000 Spartan Handicap at seven furlongs.

Secret Romeo, owned by the AAC Stable of A.A. Catenacci and trained by leading trainer Gerald Bennett, won the Michigan Futurity last year and is currently riding a wave of three victories. On May 25, jockey Terry Houghton patiently waited aboard Secret Romeo in the Lansing Stakes until pouncing on Island N Abreeze and winning by three-quarters of a length under mild pressure. Secret Romeo, a Service Stripe colt, has won seven of 13 career starts.

Leading rider Houghton again has the mount. Secret Romeo will carry high weight of 122 pounds.

Island N Abreeze, owned by Farid and Joan Sefa and trained by Brenda Hill, has a rivalry with Secret Romeo and will probably be on the lead in the Spartan. Island N Abreeze will carry 121 pounds and be ridden by Freddie Mata.

From the rail out, the Spartan field consists of Magic Spark, Mary Doser, 112 pounds; Deputy Stripe, Scott Sowle, 115; Island N Abreeze; Meadowcrest Kid, Louis Stokes, 111; Secret Romeo; Blackstone Dreamer, Luis Martinez, 118; Mute Gingrich, Rafael Estrella, 114; Soaring Hawk, Ricardo Lopez, 110; Lite Up, Felipe Santos, 115; and Cathy's Private, Luis Martinez, Jr., 113.

* Tropical storm Allison devastated the Gulf Coast last week, dumping up to 36 inches of rain over the region. Though geographically distant, Great Lakes Downs fell victim to the storm when the track lost wagering capability through its simulcasting hub at Sam Houston Race Park.

Wagering was under way on the Belmont Stakes when the connection was lost about 3:30 p.m. A sizable crowd had turned out to see the Belmont, and most stayed for the race.

An emergency meeting was called between track management and the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Asociation, and a decision was made to run Great Lakes's live evening card without betting and for purse money only.

It appeared that betting would be offered for Sunday's card when a link was temporarily re-established, but at 3 p.m. the track announced that wagering was off for the day and that the evening card would be rescheduled. Monday, the track raced after mutuels director Dustin Dix managed to reroute Great Lake's bets through Chicago.

Those fans who stayed after the Belmont Stakes saw Freddie Mata post a hat trick by winning three consecutive races. Mata won the third aboard Dr. O, the fourth on Spark Princess, and the fifth on Double Hat Trick.

Mata is second in the current standings with 38 wins to Houghton's 58. Houghton had triples on Friday and Monday, while Rafael Estrella had a three-bagger of his own Tuesday evening.

- C.A. Shoemaker

Canterbury Park

SHAKOPEE, Minn.- Canterbury Park's Saturday feature is the Brooks Fields Handicap, named in honor of the track's founder. The track will contribute $1 from each paid admission to the Brooks Fields Quality of Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was established in 1989 in an effort to improve living conditions for backstretch employees. The founduation sponsors a number of programs, including low-cost dental services, and the acquisition of sports equipment and dorm furnishings. It also oversees the track's chaplaincy.

In an effort to bolster betting handle on Thursday nights, Canterbury Park will offer a guaranteed $10,000 pool for its $1 pick six wager every Thursday night until further notice.

- David M. Miller

Delta Downs

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., closed its live racing season Sunday with a 14 percent increase in handle over the corresponding meet last year. The track's average daily handle during its 88-day season, which comprised a mixed meet from Jan. 4 to April 13 and a Quarter Horse meet thereafter, was $718,765.

Charles McMahon won the Quarter Horse riding title with 31 wins, while K.C. Carden, in his first season at Delta Downs, captured the Quarter Horse training title with 23 wins.

Boyd Gaming Corporation, which owns casino properties around the country, took over ownership of the track June 1. The track is awaiting a gaming license from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board to operate slots.

- Mary Rampellini


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - This season's 2-year-old racing began in Friday night's first race and I'm Next, a bargain $1,200 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale by owner-trainer Keith Ande, drew away impressively under jockey Gary Kurek, paying $7.80.

In Saturday's first race, leading trainer Ralph Martinez saddled Rock n Robbie to his sixth straight win, a streak that dates back to last November. Rock n Robbie paid $3 and was ridden, as always, by Vincente Flores. His next start, however, will come for trainer Kim Hammond as she claimed I'm Next, an 8-year-old gelding, for $4,000 on behalf of owner Merritt Hudson.

Root for Duke has come to life since dropping to the bottom level of the claiming ranks. A 4-year-old, he had but two career wins as of May 1 when he made his second start for $3,000. He has now won three in a row at that level, most recently in Monday's third. Trained by Bill Duncan, Root for Duke paid $6 and had regular jockey Gabe Rodriguez in the irons.

Jockey Julio Mera is now riding here. A 31-year-old native of Panama who came to America last year, Mera has ridden at Great Lakes Downs and Tampa Bay Downs.

Trainer Marvin "Blue" Fanning, who at age 75 still exercises his own stock, suffered a broken shoulder Monday morning when one of his horses fell during a routine morning gallop. As consolation, the Fanning-trained Alpha's Halo scored in Tuesday's second race under jockey Marcial Campos.

- Rod Peck

Lincoln State Fair Park

LINCOLN, Neb. - The race for leading rider heated up along with the weather Sunday, as Jerry Carkeek and Dennis Collins won seven of the nine races on the card.

Collins began his string in the second race when he guided Above Great, trained by Donald Leifeld, to a five-length win. He followed up with wins aboard Cheyenne Night for trainer Arlen Hiatt in the fifth; Stromboli for Ricky Gustafson in the seventh; and Death Trappe, again for Leifeld, in the eighth.

Carkeek scored with three mounts on the day - A Royal Summer in the fourth, Best Seller in the sixth, and Ethics in the ninth - to maintain a 22-18 edge over Collins.

The NTRA Racing Experience, a traveling educational display, will be at the track on Father's Day, June 17. The display will be located in the parking lot south of the grandstand throughout the day.

- Bill Hodtwalker

Louisiana Downs

Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., opened its stable area for training on June 8. The track's 89-day meet starts June 30 and runs through Nov. 11.

Trainer Cole Norman, who will attempt to win his fourth consecutive title at the meet, said he will return with 50 horses for 2001. Norman won his first Oaklawn Park training title in April, and is currently the second-leading trainer at Lone Star Park near Dallas.

Pat Pope, racing secretary at Louisiana Downs, said other trainers expected to have stables at the meet include Steve Asmussen, currently the leading trainer at Lone Star; Michael Stidham; Sam David Jr.; Troy Young; Jerry Cart; Henry Johnson Jr.; Jim Gaston; Andrew Leggio Jr.; and Larry Robideaux Jr.

- Mary Rampellini

Prairie Meadows

ALTOONA, Iowa - Ray Stifano scored a training triple Saturday night at Prairie Meadows, including sending out two impressive debut winners.

In the second race, Stifano saddled first-time starter It's All Rumor ($19.80), a 3-year-old daughter of Whitney Tower, who scored a gate-to-wire nine-length victory in the $10,000 maiden claiming event.

In the sixth race, a $22,000 maiden special at six furlongs, Stifano sent out Go to Harvard. A 3-year-old gelded son of Hazaam, Go to Harvard dueled through a first half-mile of 45.69 seconds before drawing clear down the lane to score a five-length victory in 1:10.99.

Stifano's third winner came in the next race when Lady Hoosier led throughout and held on for a 1 3/4-length score in a $10,000 claimer for fillies and mares. The victory was Lady Hoosier's third straight and her second at the meet. She will be changing barns, however, as she was claimed by trainer Dennis Good. All three of Stifano's winner's were ridden by Mike Allen.

Just to illustrate how humbling racing can be, Stifano's only other starter of the night, Ive Gota Bad Liver, finished last in the Wild Rose Handicap. It was the second straight dull effort for Ive Gota Bad Liver, a 4-year-old filly, since she was purchased for a six-figure sum by a Stifano client, Barry Ostrager.

- Dave Basler

Remington Park

Night racing helped Remington Park in Oklahoma City post a 20 percent increase in average daily handle during its 37-day Quarter Horse meet, which ended Saturday. The track, which installed a lighting system last fall, raced nights on a regular basis for the first time during the meet, and as a result handle on its live races increased from $312,788 last year to $392,220.

Remington Park's handle was boosted most by its offtrack patrons. Los Alamitos in California took the track's signal on most nights, helping Remington Park achieve an average daily offtrack handle of $257,614, a 58 percent increase over last year's average of $163,031.

Average attendance this meet dropped 4 percent, to 2,504, while average daily purses were up 24 percent, to $115,389. Jockey G.R. Carter won his fifth riding title at the track, setting a record for wins in a Quarter Horse season with 84. Rodney Reed won his seventh consecutive title at the track with 47 winners.

Tailor Fit notched his third consecutive horse of the meet title at Remington Park with his win in the $100,000 Remington Park Championship on Saturday. Other big winners Saturday were Rdustys Chick ($28) in the $437,276 Heritage Place Futurity; and Some Dashing Dude ($20.20) in the $130,267 Heritage Place Derby.

- Mary Rampellini