With Willie Martinez up and trainer John Servis looking on from the frontside press box, Rockport Harbor went to the Oaklawn Park racetrack at 7:00 Friday morning for a mile work.After an eventful start to the work, Rockport Harbor proceeded to get the mile in 1:39 4/5 over a fast racetrack and galloped out nine furlongs in 1:54 3/5 in preparation for his 3-year-old debut in the $250,000 Rebel Stakes here March 19.Clockers caught Rockport Harbor in the following splits: :11 1/5; :23; :34 4/5; :47 1/5; 1:00; 1:13 3/5, and 1:26 4/5.By way of comparison, Rocky's fractions for the quarter, the half-mile, and three-quarters bested the bullet times for those respective distances of all the horses who worked. And only speedball Wildcat Shoes (:58 1/5) went a faster five-eighths than Rocky. Veteran trainer Don Von Hemel, watching Rocky's move from the trainers' stand at the three-quarters pole, called it a "helluva" work.But Servis was not altogether happy. He was hoping to see Rocky go slow early and finish fast. Instead, Rocky went fast early and got a little tired late."It's not the end of the world," said Servis, "but I don't want to see Rocky get in the habit of going too fast too early. Rocky came back good, and I'm sure he got something out of the move. He'll be fine. He'll work once more for the Rebel, five-eighths or six furlongs next Friday, with Bobby (regular exercise rider Bobby Velez) up." For this morning's work, Velez was up on the strapping gray stable pony Jinks, who has become something of a media star himself.
When Rockport Harbor broke off at the eighth pole, Jinks decided he wanted to keep up with Rocky and brushed up against him, causing Martinez to briefly lose his left stirrup."The pony knocked my left foot off the iron," Martinez said, "and, as a result, I wasn't able to get Rocky to relax right away, and he went too fast. The first three-eighths we went too fast, and I had to regroup down the backside."It was a solid work. He felt good under me, but I would have wanted to see him finish up better. I never really asked him (for speed). And I didn't push him at the end. I'm sure he got a lot out of the work."