08/13/2008 12:00AM

Houghton back on top in Michigan


Jockey Terry Houghton has taken the reins at Pinnacle Race Course's inaugural meet, winning 34 races through the first 16 days of racing. Last summer, Houghton rode at various Midwest tracks, such as Canterbury Park, Presque Isle Downs, and Indiana Downs as he was one of seven riders banned from riding in some states, including Michigan, due to an investigation into unusual betting patterns on Great Lakes Downs races in 2006. With no charges ever filed as a result of that ongoing investigation, Houghton has been licensed to ride here and has re-established himself as the top jockey in the state while winning at a 27opercent clip. Houghton has finished in the money with more than two-thirds of his 124 mounts through Tuesday's card.

Houghton's closest competitor is Federico Mata, who has 27 tallies from 114 attempts. Tommy Molina and Ricardo Barrios follow with 14 wins each.

The rider with the best percentage is Mike Allen, who has a win and a second from two mounts. He will be in from Presque Isle Downs on Saturday to try for a repeat stakes victory on Valley Loot, who headlines the Moonbeam Handicap. The pair won the Larkspur Handicap here on July 26.

* Sunday's seventh race became a de facto match race after a gate mishap caused two scratches from a five-horse field. Idapress, the 7-1 outsider, was never close as the two 4-5 shots set out at each other's throatlatches. Favored Wave Pool, who won the Regret Stakes here on opening weekend, held off What a Charm by a length in the seven-furlong race. Wave Pool paid $3.60, the only straight payoff on the race.

* Pinnacle's export handle reached $200,000 this week for the first time in this track's brief history. The simulcast signal, one of few available on Tuesdays, is gaining popularity and pulled in $212,838 on Tuesday. The total handle of $251,531 was second only to opening day, when the estimated crowd of 3,500 bet nearly $130,000 on the live card while a similar amount was bet on Pinnacle through simulcast outlets. Though no official attendance is reported, the track is still attracting respectable crowds, despite the temporary facilities.