07/29/2009 11:00PM

Mata, Skerrett battling in Pinnacle jockeys' race


When Terry Houghton won six races at Pinnacle Race Course on opening weekend here in early June, it looked like just another typical Michigan meet, with Houghton running away with the jockey race. But Houghton left for Mountaineer and now there's a real contest for top rider.

Ricardo Barrios has led most most of the meet while leaving occasionally to ride a winner at Mountaineer, but Freddie Mata and Jeffrey Skerrett have climbed to the top while trading shots the past week. Skerrett had a pair of winners Tuesday to tie Mata, and then they seesawed through the card, with Mata in front at the end of the day, leading 35-34 through 27 days of racing.

Skerrett won with Juicy Loots ($3.40) in the third and Q Big Top ($4.40) in the fifth to pull even with Mata, but Mata came right back, winning the sixth with Top Touch ($3.40). Skerrett countered with My First Buck ($5.20) before Mata brought the day to a close with an unexpected win on Magical Powers ($21).

In contrast, the contest for top trainer is a runaway. My First Buck and Magical Powers, who combined for a $74.20 late daily double Tuesday, are both trained by Robert Gorham, who has rarely missed a day in the winner's circle. With 34 wins, the Kalamazoo veterinarian has 17 more than his nearest competitor and is just one short of leading rider Mata.

w Ricky Knott and trainer Al Stout teamed up Tuesday to make Stout's first 2009 day at the track a perfect one. Knott brought home Flying Solo ($4) and Somber ($4.60) for a $9.40 daily double. Stout trains the pair for Billie Jo Smith.