10/02/2001 11:00PM

Michigan breeding gets annual night in spotlight


MUSKEGON, Mich. - Friday night's card at Great Lakes Downs will showcase Michigan breeding with a series of six Sires Stakes, for the progeny of Michigan sires. Four of the six winners from the 2000 series will be back to defend their titles. Each race is worth an estimated $120,000.

The stakes begin in the third race with 2-year-old colts and geldings competing at six furlongs. Brenda Hill, who has enjoyed past success in the Sires Stakes, will saddle That Final Answer for Farid and Pat Sefa and her own Owens County. That Final Answer won his maiden here on Sept. 21 and will be ridden Friday by Freddie Mata. Luis Martinez Jr. has the call on Owens County, who won at first asking here in June, but faltered in subsequent starts in Kentucky and Indiana.

Leading rider Terry Houghton will be aboard Capable Capers in the 2-year-old colts and geldings race for owners Jim and Marcia Arnold and leading trainer Gerald Bennett. Capable Capers looked good in his debut in August, but then threw in a bad race when beaten 33 lengths by the filly Salinas Star.

*Born to Dance is the standout in the juvenile filly division. James Jackson trains Born to Dance, Service Stripe filly, who has rarely been headed. Owned by Ro Parra, Born to Dance was beaten a half-length at Churchill Downs in her debut before coming here and winning three races, including the Temptress and Sickles Image stakes. Houghton will ride.

Salinas Star, trained by owner Dennis Cluley, has a maiden and an allowance win here, and wasn't pushed in either. Regular rider Mary Doser will be aboard.

*Secret Romeo, third in last year's Sires Stake Juvenile, looks for his ninth win at this track when he faces six others in the Sires Stakes for 3-year-olds. He would have a perfect record this meet except for a loss to the older Q. Commercial Jette in the Muskegon Classic. Bennett has again engaged Houghton to ride Secret Romeo. Both 3-year-old races are at 1 1/16 miles.

*Empress Livia has blossomed for Bennett this summer after taking four tries to win her maiden. She enters the 3-year-old filly Sires Stakes with wins in the Ann Arbor Stakes and the Michigan Oaks, which she won by nine lengths. In the Oaks she defeated Sefa's Foreign Country, who won her division of the Sires Stakes last year and who is also entered in this race.

*The seventh race is for older males and attracted three past Sire Stakes winners in the field of eight. The hard-knocking 9-year-old Pongo Boy was a Sires Stakes champion before most of his competition was born and has won nearly $800,000 in his career. That Gift won last year as a 3-year-old, while his full brother That Monetary won the older division. Both of the races for older runners are at 1 1/8 miles.

That Gift, trained by Bob Miller, is the horse to beat. Miller's wife, Delphine, owns That Gift and the couple bred both That Gift and one of his Friday rivals, That Monetary, who is owned by their daughter Susan Daly. That Gift, a Michigan champion in 1999 and 2000, has only one win this meet, but has been close in every race, losing the Governor's Cup to That Monetary by a neck. That Monetary has a win, three seconds, and three thirds this meet. He will will be ridden by Doser.

*Bennett and owner Hugo Leonardi are looking for a repeat Sires Stakes win from Michigan champion Flyinghannah in the fillies and mares Sires Stakes. Flyinghannah has won six races at this meet, including three stakes. Mata will ride Flyinghannah, whose only loss at the meet was to Sefas Rose in the Larkspur Handicap. Sefas Rose was fourth to Flyinghannah in last year's Sires Stakes. Houghton will ride Sefas Rose.