05/22/2002 12:00AM

Local horse of the year Born to Dance returns for Larkspur

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MUSKEGON, Mich. - Born to Dance, Great Lakes Downs's 2001 horse of the year, will return to racing at the friendly confines of this track Friday, heading a field of 10 statebred fillies and mares in the $45,000 Larkspur Handicap, the first stakes race of the meet.

Born to Dance won all five of her races here last year, and pretty much was in front every step of the way of every race. She was headed only briefly in the early going of her first two races. Born to Dance earned three "easily" and two "handily" chart comments for the five victories.

In her last five starts, all away from Michigan, Born to Dance's best finishes were seconds at Oaklawn and Turfway. In a troubled trip at Oaklawn in January, she lost by a whisker in the $50,000 Dixie Belle, a race in which she was bumped at the start and then had to go six wide for the stretch run.

She finished fourth in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland in April in her last start.

Owned by Ro Parra and trained by James Jackson, Born to Dance will be ridden Friday by Luis Martinez from the outside post.

The Larkspur, run at six furlongs, won't necessarily be a cakewalk for Born to Dance. My City Girl, trained by Richard Rettele, tuned up for this race with an allowance win on May 13.

Sefas Rose, trained by Brenda Hill, will have leading rider Terry Houghton in the irons. Sefas Rose won last year's Michigan Sires Stakes for older female runners.

Empress Livia, the top local

3-year-old filly of 2001, makes her first start of the year. She is trained by Gerald Bennett and Freddie Mata gets the call for the Larkspur.

From the rail out, the Larkspur field is: Empress Livia, 120 pounds; My City Girl, 119, Mary Doser; I Match Too, 117, Mike Allen the rider; Take the Lady Out, 114, Ruben Pizarro; Double Hat Trick, 115, James Schwartz; Little Match Girl, 115, Roberto Perez; Agiftfromservice, 114, Joe Crispin; Sefas Rose, 122; Emmies Esperanza, 115, Luis Martinez Jr.; and Born to Dance, 122.