05/05/2004 12:00AM

Great Lakes welcomes back Houghton


MUSKEGON, Mich. - Terry Houghton returns to ride at Great Lakes Downs on Saturday for the first time since he was involved in a horrific spill there in August 2002.

He has mounts in five of the eight races on Saturday's program.

Houghton sustained a severe concussion when his mount went down at the half-mile pole, and was thrown a considerable distance before being hit by a trailing horse. He underwent months of therapy in Detroit and was out of action for 16 months until he resumed his career last December at Tampa Bay Downs.

Houghton rode 82 winners at the Tampa meet to finish five behind leading rider Jesus Castanon in the jockey standings.

Houghton has been highly successful at Great Lakes, where he was the leading rider in 2002 with 175 victories, despite missing the final two months of the meet. He also won 239 races at Great Lakes in 2001, 207 in 2000, and 162 in 1999.

* After the first seven days of racing, Frankie Mata holds a 14-10 lead over Bobby Lester in the jockey standings.

Ronnie Allen, second in the trainer standings at Tampa Bay, is tied with Gerald Bennett with six winners apiece.

* Fans on opening night were treated to a gutsy performance by Secret Romeo, a past Michigan horse of the year. Under Lester, Secret Romeo rallied to defeat Rockem Sockem, last year's Michigan juvenile champion, by three-quarters of a length in a 5 1/2-furlong optional claiming race.