11/03/2004 1:00AM

Rockem Sockem best in Michigan


Rockem Sockem was named the Michigan horse of the year last Saturday, when Great Lakes Downs ended its sixth season of racing. A 3-year-old gelding, Rockem Sockem was sensational in winning the Lansing, Spartan, and Dowling stakes this year.

Rockem Sockem, who was last year's state juvenile champion, dominated his peers and his elders before winning the Dowling in lackluster fashion. He was found to have an entrapped epiglottis and underwent surgery following that race. While recovering, Gorham said, Rockem Sockem suffered from colitis, and Rockem Sockem barely made it back to the races. He ran a dull race in the Sire Stakes, his lone start since the Dowling.

"I really didn't think I'd see this horse again," Gorham said, fighting back tears while accepting the award. "He's doing great. He's a monster, and we hope to have him back next year."

In prior years, ballots were cast for the divisional winners, but this year announcer Matt Hook picked the winners unilaterally, causing some controversy. The following are his other picks:

* Above the Wind, winner of the Wolverine Stakes, was the top older male runner. He is trained by Ronnie Allen and owned by The Hamco Group LLC.

* Dancin for Gold, owned by the Stonewood Farm, won her division of the Sire Stakes and was named the top older distaffer. Jockey Mary Doser accepted for her husband, trainer Scott Sowle.

* Gold Ginny, owned by Elizabeth Weber, won a pair of 3-year-old filly stakes and took that division. She was one of two champions trained by Gerald Bennett.

* Bennett's other winner was Demagoguey, the male juvenile champion. Owned by Mary Mazur, Demagoguey won his division of the Sire Stakes.

* Foolininthemeadow won 4 of 5 starts, including the Sire Stakes and two other stakes, to wrap up the 2-year-old filly division for owner Roycester Moore and trainer Karl Waters. Hook originally picked Foolininthemeadow as the horse of the year, but then switched to Rockem Sockem, the popular choice among the horsemen.

* Terry Houghton picked up another riding title after winning 196 races and 25 percent of his mounts. Bennett repeated as the top conditioner with 94 wins, a 22-percent winning clip.

* Co Twining Niner, who won 8 of 10 starts, was named the top claimer at the meet. He won the eighth race on closing night with his usual big kick and caused quite a commotion at the claim box. The scene outside the stewards' stand resembled an HBPA meeting, as a track record 11 claims were dropped for him. He went to the barn of owner-trainer John Rupert.