10/03/2002 12:00AM

Sire Stakes bring out Michigan's best

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MUSKEGON, Mich. - Michigan's richest night of Thoroughbred racing will be held Saturday 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 $120,000-added, with last year's total purses nearing $160,000 per race. The 2-year-old races are at six furlongs, the 3-year-old runners will go 1 1/16 miles, and older runners will be asked to go 1 1/8 miles. There are races for both males and females in each division.

Secret Romeo, a Michigan champion at 2 and 3 years of age, is the headliner on the card. Now 4, Secret Romeo is listed at 7-5 on the morning line in the eighth race, in which he will face nine older colts and geldings. If Secret Romeo wins, this will be his first Sire Stakes tally, as he was upset in each of the past two years.

Never worse than third on his home turf here, Secret Romeo has been on the road most of the year while winning stakes in Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, and Florida. Three weeks ago he tuned up for the Sire Stakes with a convincing victory in the Frontier Handicap, which was his second local stakes victory of the year for owner Tony Catenacci and trainer Gerald Bennett. Freddie Mata gets the return call aboard Secret Romeo, a son of Service Stripe, who will break from the rail.

That Gift and That Monetary, full brothers who will be coupled in the betting, are the second choice at 4-1. Trained by Bob Miller, That Gift was a local champion in 1999 and 2000 and has four wins this year, including an overnight handicap. He finished second to Secret Romeo in the Frontier.

Deputy Stripe, a speedster, will try Secret Romeo again. In the Frontier, he drew clear but gave way in the final yards. Last year's upset winner, Smooth Roller, is back for this renewal, but once again will be a big price. He has but one win since the 2001 Sire Stakes, an allowance race at River Downs.

* Sefas Rose and Empress Livia will face off in the older filly and mare division. Empress Livia finally came around for trainer Bennett last month and won the Farer Belle Lee Handicap - her first win since last year's Michigan Oaks. Joe Judice will be aboard for the Sire Stakes.

Sefas Rose is looking to repeat in this division. She won the Larkspur Handicap here in May but has been beaten in her last four starts.

* Sweetwater Promise, who is coming off strong wins in the Michigan Oaks and the Ann Arbor Stakes, is the horse to beat in the 3-year-old filly division. Previously overshadowed by her stablemate, 2001 Michigan horse of the year Born to Dance, Sweetwater Promise has come into her own going longer distances for trainer James Jackson.

The fast Bad Thing will try to stretch his speed.

* American Deputy stands out in the 3-year-old colts and geldings divsion. American Deputy, another Service Stripe runner, has won three allowance races since winning his maiden in May. Bob Gorham trains American Deputy for his wife, Erin, and Henry Mast.

* Bennett, who trains runners in all of the Sire Stakes races but the 3-year-old fillies division, will start four in the juvenile colts and geldings. There are only three horses in the field who are winners, and all are trained by Benett.

Bar U Anio won his maiden after finishing second to stablemate Monetary Star in that one's only start. The two will be rematched here.

* Dancin for Gold may be favored in the juvenile fillies division for trainer Dave Kueffner. She won at second asking and will face seven rivals, including six maidens.

Glamorize, the other winner in the race, was second to Dancin for Gold before winning two weeks ago.