09/30/2007 11:00PM

Houghton glad he's welcome in Chicago

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Really, trainer Michele Boyce owed jockey Terry Houghton some kind of payback. Houghton wound up this summer at Canterbury Park when Arlington Park's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., denied him permission to ride because of an ongoing investigation into alleged suspicious betting patterns at several racetracks. One morning, Houghton drove from Canterbury in the suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul area down to Prairie Meadows in Des Moines, Iowa, to ride a horse for Boyce - only to find upon arrival that the horse had been scratched.

"I got to the jocks' room, they looked at me, and asked what I was doing there," Houghton said Monday.

Not that Houghton was holding anything against anyone. This week, he was just grateful to be back riding in Chicago, and winning the Indian Maid Stakes last Saturday aboard the Boyce-trained Jennie R. was gravy.

Hawthorne, unlike CDI, Turfway Park, and Tampa Bay Downs, doesn't have a problem with Houghton riding at its facility. The whole situation arose last year during the Tampa meet, when that track ruled off Houghton and several other riders. The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau continues to investigate unusual betting patterns in races at several different tracks, some of which involved races with Houghton riding. The investigation has dragged, and Houghton has not been indicted under any charges - and unless he is, Hawthorne doesn't have a problem with him riding. It was the first racetrack to let Houghton in this year, and Houghton expressly thanked Hawthorne management for not taking a guilty-until-proven-innocent stance.

Houghton had hoped to ride at Arlington following the Hawthorne spring season, but CDI has private-property rights to deny him access to its grounds.

"You know, Michele Boyce was going to give me some shots at Arlington, and it was disappointing to have to miss that," Houghton said. "This year's been really crazy - I've been licensed in seven different states."

Houghton got a shot on Jennie R. because regular rider E.T. Baird was at Santa Anita to ride Lewis Michael in the Goodwood Stakes. Jennie R. likes to go to the front, and Houghton did things about perfectly. She won by more than four lengths, and set a Hawthorne turf course record for 1o1/16 miles.

"I was afraid she'd just be a speedball and run off with you, but on the first turn, she really came back to me and relaxed," Houghton said. "She's a really nice mare."

Jennie R. is cataloged in Keeneland's sale of horses of all ages in November. Anyone licensed to own Thoroughbreds in Illinois could have bought her in her first start this year, when she raced for a $50,000 claiming tag, but now, Jennie R. figures to fetch a fair amount more than that.

Houghton, meanwhile, came right back to win another turf race for Boyce on Sunday with Seeyalatertater. He said he plans to ride out the meet at Hawthorne - a good idea, since so many other places have closed their doors to him.

Lewis Michael heading to Keeneland

Chicago's best handicap horse, Lewis Michael, went down to defeat on Saturday at Santa Anita - and he's no longer a Chicago-based handicap horse, either. Trainer Wayne Catalano said Lewis Michael was to be flown Tuesday from California to Kentucky, where he will join Catalano's small string at Keeneland.

Lewis Michael, who was bet down to 2-1 favoritism in the Goodwood, checked in fourth after contesting a quick pace and winding up wide around the far turn. Catalano pointed out that Lewis Michael was beaten less than two lengths, and said the horse exited the race in good shape.

"I was a little frustrated with the trip we got," Catalano said.

Catalano said there were no immediate plans for Lewis Michael, whose connections have mentioned the Dubai World Cup as a possible long-range goal.

* The featured event on Wednesday at Hawthorne is race 6, an entry-level Illinois-bred turf allowance race that, if nothing else, has a large, competitive field. Two Moises Yanez-trained horses, Angela's Double and Starlight Dove, both look like contenders, while trainer Chris Block also has two possibilities in the race, Rally Catcher and Vapor Lock.