Rockport Harbor confirmed for next week's Rebel Stakes.

Rockport Harbor confirmed for next week's Rebel Stakes.

Jeff Coady

Rockport Harbor Improving as Rebel Nears

(from Oaklawn Park report)
Just when it looked as if Rockport Harbor's luck had run out and he'd be unable to make the March 19 Rebel Stakes (gr. III), trainer John Servis, while still cautious, said the foot looked much better Sunday.

"I'm not sure we've dodged this bullet," trainer Servis said Sunday morning before -- appropriately -- taking his family to church, "...but we're weaving."

As for the Rebel (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park?

"The Rebel is a go...absolutely," Servis said. "The only thing is that
instead of being 75 to 80 per cent for the Rebel, Rocky will be maybe 65 to 70 per cent."

The latest chapter in the "Perils of Rockport Harbor" occurred early Saturday morning when the strapping 3-year-old, who is based at Oaklawn Park this spring, was discovered favoring his right hind foot.

That's the foot that was stepped on by a trailing horse going to the first turn of the Remsen Stakes last November at Aqueduct, causing an ugly gash that required six weeks to heal.

"It's possible that Rocky aggravated the old wound in his work Friday," Servis said. "We applied animalintex (a poultice pad) on the foot, and it helped. Rocky was doing much better this morning, and God willing, and the creek don't rise, he'll get back to the track on Tuesday, and he'll run Saturday."

Just three weeks back, Rockport Harbor sustained a bruised left front foot. But that injury proved to be minor, and the colt was back on the track in 48 hours.

Purchased by East Coast auto dealer Rick Porter for $470,000 at the Keeneland Fall Yearling Sales in 2003, Rockport Harbor made a splash last year at 2, winning all four starts -- two at his home base at Philadelphia Park and the Nashua and Remsen at Aqueduct.

Servis is following the same Arkansas path with Rockport Harbor this year as he did successfully with Smarty Jones in 2004. If Rockport Harbor wins the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) on April 16, he will take the same 6-for-6 record into the Kentucky Derby that Smarty Jones did.

The Rebel, a $250,000 event contested at 1 1/6 miles, also will attract Afleet Alex, runnerup for the Eclipse Award last year, and winner of the six-furlong Mountain Valley at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut. Also anticipated are three-time stakes-winner Greater Good and recent allowance winner Baston Challenge.