10/30/2002 1:00AM

Great Lakes Downs track report


MUSKEGON, Mich. - The training title came down to the final day of the Great Lakes Downs meeting on Tuesday, but riding honors were already decided in August.

Terry Houghton rode 175 winners in the first 78 days of the meeting before suffering a season-ending concussion on Aug. 25. As it turns out.those were all the wins he needed to win the title.

Houghton, who was second nationally in wins at the time of his spill, visited the track Tuesday to pick up his award. Still in the top 10 nationally with 256 wins, Houghton is recuperating at home in Michigan and is anticipated to make his return at Tampa Bay Downs.

Veteran trainer Richard Rettele started the day three wins ahead of 2001 Great Lakes champion Gerald Bennett and then picked up win number 65 to claim his first training title. Annette Bacola, the state's racing commissioner, was on hand to present Rettele and his wife, Carol, with the Commissioner's Award of Excellence for their dedication and contributions to the sport. Rettele is a disciple of the late Marion H. Van Berg.

Great Lakes horse of the year was no surprise. The top older male, Secret Romeo, was a unanimous choice of the voters. A divisional champion here at 2 and 3, Secret Romeo won his first Michigan Sire Stakes this year, as well as stakes races at five different tracks for owner Tony Catenacci and trainer Gerald Bennett.

Bennett said that plans are for Secret Romeo to race as a 5-year-old. A son of Service Stripe, he has made just shy of $700,000 while winning 19 of 31 starts. "We're shooting for the million-dollar mark with Romeo," Bennett said.

On Monday, jockey Octavio Bernal won his first stakes race, the White Lace Stakes, aboard Ozilda's Nancy Lee for owner Robert Reddick and trainer Odin Londono. A native of Panama, Bernal came to the United States this year.