06/23/2004 12:00AM

Great Lakes: Injured Mata still leads jocks


MUSKEGON, Mich. - Freddie Mata is the leading rider at Great Lakes Downs - for now. Mata, who won the riding title here in 2000, holds a 49-43 lead over past champion Terry Houghton, despite missing the past week because of a training accident.

Mata was injured on June 15, when a 2-year-old flipped with him in the starting gate. He underwent surgery in Muskegon to have a pin inserted in his broken ankle. Agent Frank Garoufalis said the prognosis is good and that Mata is expected to ride again in about four weeks.

Rider Ron Gabriel is switching his tack from Chicago to Muskegon and is named on mounts here Friday, Garoufalis said.

* Twenty students were graduated this week from a beginners English course sponsored by Great Lakes Downs and the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The track hired Inna Klein, a local instructor, to teach the course to Hispanic backstretch workers wishing to improve their English.

Golf and bowling fundraisers helped pay a salary to Klein, who volunteers additional time with the students. The students will get little break from studying. The successful fundraising efforts mean an eight-week intermediate course will be starting soon.