10/08/2003 11:00PM

Michigan-sired horses to clash in six stakes


MUSKEGON, Mich. - Michigan's richest Thoroughbred card of the year will take place Saturday evening when Great Lakes Downs holds the Michigan Sire Stakes, a series of six races for the progeny of Michigan stallions.

The purse for each race is estimated at $120,000-added, with last year's purses checking in at just over $150,000 per race. The races for juveniles will be held at six furlongs, the races for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, and the races for older runners at 1 1/8 miles. The series is carded as the third through eighth races on the nine-race card, which gets under way at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Secret Romeo, a Michigan champion at 2, 3, and 4 years of age and this state's reigning horse of the year, will be looking for his second Sire Stakes win. He was upset in his first two Sire Stakes tries but broke through last year. A 5-year-old by Service Stripe, Secret Romeo is the 2-1 morning-line favorite despite having not won a stakes race this year at Great Lakes Downs, where he has won 13 races.

Secret Romeo was recently second in allowance company at Mountaineer Park, where he won the Arnault Memorial Handicap in August. Joe Judice will ride for leading trainer Gerald Bennett, who will also saddle Timely Factor and Goldinrunner in the race. Bennett has entered 11 runners in the six Sire Stakes events.

Goldinrunner was the upset winner of the Michigan Breeders' Governor's Handicap in July, when Secret Romeo had his only off-the-board finish at this track. Luis Martinez will ride Goldinrunner.

Sefas Rose seeks third distaff win

Sefas Rose is looking for a three-peat in the older distaff division.

She is listed as the 4-1 third choice on the morning line, behind Born to Dance and Sweetwater Promise, who are coupled in the wagering, and Tank Grrrl. Leading jockey Freddie Mata returns aboard Sefas Rose.

Born to Dance and Sweetwater Promise are trained by James Jackson. Both are past champions here. Born to Dance, now 4, was named horse of the year here at age 2, in 2001. She finished third in Turfway Park's Weekend Delight Stakes in her most recent start. Prior to that, she won a stakes race at Mountaineer and, earlier this meet, won the Larkspur Stakes here. Jason Eads will be in to ride Born to Dance.

Tank Grrrl, a Sire Stakes winner in 2001, won her first two starts of 2003, including the Farer Belle Lee Handicap, in which she defeated Sefas Rose by a neck. In her most recent start, three weeks ago, she was sixth in an allowance race at Arlington Park.

* Rockem Sockem, part of a Bob Gorham-trained entry with Hot Shot Spirit, is the standout 2-year-old colt. He earlier won the Patrick Wood Stakes, beating his better-regarded stablemate Heza Mountain Man, who is not eligible for this series. Tommy Molina rides Rockem Sockem.

* After getting off to a rocky start this year, Monetary Star, last year's juvenile Sire Stakes winner, has won his last two starts, the Mackinac Handicap in September and the Dowling Stakes in August. Bennett trains Monetary Star, one of his three 2002 Sire Stakes winners, and gives the mount to Judice.

* Great Choice, a filly who has made only one start, is the favorite in the 3-year-old filly race. Trained by former Detroit Lions great Bob Miller, Great Choice won her debut by three lengths after being pushed all the way. Mata has the mount.

* Textbook Tillie, trained by Gorham, is the choice in the juvenile filly division. She finished fourth in the recent Sickles Image Stakes but was placed third. Mata will ride Textbook Tillie, who will be coupled with Send 'Em Pakin.