Servis 'Harbors' Derby aspirations

February 13, 2005|by LARRY YANOS

Play it again, Sam.

Trainer John Servis, who gained national recognition a year ago with Smarty Jones, has another legitimate Triple Crown prospect this year in 3-year-old Rockport Harbor.

"He's a good one," said Servis, the Charles Town, W.Va., native Friday from the Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. "Time will tell just how good he will be."

The undefeated Rockport Harbor, which finished fourth in voting in the Eclipse Awards for best 2-year-old, worked out at Oaklawn Park Friday morning under the watchful eye of Servis.


He'll make his 2005 debut on March 19 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Last year, Smarty Jones won the Southwest Stakes, the Rebel Stakes, the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby to claim a $5 million bonus put up by Oaklawn Park to celebrate its centennial season.

Rockport Harbor's journey to the Triple Crown series opener at Churchill Downs will be a bit different.

"He's still recovering from the Remsen and we won't run him in the Southwest Stakes next week," Servis said. "We'll wait until the Rebel."

Rockport Harbor suffered a deep gash in his right hind leg during last year's winning effort in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

The gray colt defeated Galloping Grocer in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen on Nov. 27 to remain unbeaten in four starts. He arrived at Oaklawn Jan. 6.

"I'm not running him in the Southwest for two reasons," Servis said. "I think he still needs some time to get into racing shape and, also, the Southwest is a flat mile race and the stretch run is very short. I don't think it would be wise to take a horse off a mile-and-eighth race and put him into a mile race."

Servis said Rockport Harbor can definitely go the distance and the distances - a 1-1/4, 1-3/16 and 1-1/2 - should be no problem in the Triple Crown Series.

Servis said jockey Stewart Elliott, who guided Smarty Jones to fame and fortune in 2004, is the regular rider for Rockport Harbor.

While Rockport Harbor finished fourth at the Eclipse awards, Smarty Jones finished second in Horse of the Year balloting while Servis was nominated in the trainer category and Elliott was on the jockey ballot.

And the winner will be ...

Rockport Harbor is among the horses on the 2005 Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

The most accomplished stars of this year's crop of 3-year-old thoroughbreds are among the 24 wagering interests in the first of three pools of the wager.

The first pool ends this afternoon. Wagers can be made at Charles Town Races & Slots and The Cracked Claw Off-Track Betting Parlor in Urbana, Md.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager allows racing fans to bet on candidates for the Kentucky Derby at odds that could be more attractive than those they would receive on Derby Day. The final odds for each pool are set at the close of betting of that specific pool.

Horses expected to attract strong support in Pool 1 include unbeaten juvenile champion Declan's Moon, who is listed at 6-1 in the wagers morning line; unbeaten Rockport Harbor (8-1), who Servis is training for his second consecutive Derby win; Afleet Alex (12-1), thewinner of Saratoga's Hopeful that has never finished worse than second in six races; and Proud Accolade (12-1), one of last year's top 2-year-olds and a decisive winner of Gulfstream Park's Hutcheson in his 2005 debut.

Other horses available include last year's 2-year-old filly champion Sweet Catomine (20-1); and 2004 Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Wilko (30-1).

Churchill Downs is also offering future wagering this weekend on the Kentucky Oaks, a prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies that is contested the day before the Kentucky Derby.

Sweet Catomine is the 4-1 morning line favorite in the Oaks wager.

Information, including real time odds on both wagers, is available at and

Pony Tales

· Ronney Brown, Charles Town's leading trainer for the past four years, predicted that increasing competition would make it difficult to repeat in 2005.

Early statistics prove him to be correct.

Following Thursday's racing card, Kevin Joy led the trainers standings with nine trips to the winner's circle but was followed closely by Brown, Ernest M. Haynes and Don Roberson, with eight wins each.

· "A Night For Noah" will be held at Laurel Park today following the last race.

There will be auctions (silent and live), food and entertainment at the event which will benefit 5-year-old Noah Grove.

Noah was diagnosed with Osteo Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, nearly a year ago. He received 13 chemotherapy treatments and has had a cancerous tumor removed.

Tickets for the event are $5 and can be purchased in the Maryland Jockey Club racing office.

· Jockey Ramon Dominguez dominated the racing action at Laurel Park Thursday by riding four winners from his six mounts.

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