07/22/2008 11:00PM

Pinnacle draws crowd, few horses


Build it and they will come.

Pinnacle Race Course, the field of dreams that rose from the swamps and cornfields just south of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, has attracted good crowds through its first four days of racing, including an overflow crowd on opening day that resulted in police turning cars away from the track when the two-lane country roads and the parking lots they lead to were inundated.

Detroit-area residents had been without live Thoroughbred racing since 1998, when Detroit Race Course was shuttered. Officials estimated attendance at more than 3,000 on opening day. The next two days were just slightly down from that figure, and the crowd remained respectable at approximately 1,500 on Tuesday when railbirds and fans filled the apron and outdoor bleachers as well as the air-conditioned pavilion.

The missing ingredient at Pinnacle, though, seems to be horses. The July 18 opener and the next day offered nine-race cards with 70 and 71 horses, respectively. The racing office struggled to fill the Sunday and Tuesday cards, and the eight-race programs drew 50 and 42 entrants. The second weekend offers 52 runners in eight races Friday and 59 over nine races Saturday.

The 15 barns at Pinnacle have a total of 600 stalls, and the backstretch is not completely filled.

Terry Houghton, riding in Michigan for the first time since 2006, jumped to the early lead in the jockey standings, with 10 winners from 32 mounts, including his first five rides Tuesday. He won the opener with favored Alys Wildcat ($4). After sitting out the second race, he reeled off four straight with U.S.S. Goliath ($5.20), Supercell ($3), Banning ($5.60), and Black Jack Breeze ($3.80).

Banning and Supercell are trained by Robert Gorham, who leads all trainers with 7 wins from 23 starts. Gorham, a Kalamazoo veterinarian, won the first three races on opening day, including the $50,000 Lansing Stakes with Equally Good, who upset at $36.20.