'Rocky' On Last Road to Derby; Faces Seven in Lexington Stakes

'Rocky' On Last Road to Derby; Faces Seven in Lexington Stakes
Photo: Jeff Coady
Rockport Harbor hopes to tune up for run at the roses in Saturday's Lexington Stakes.
A field of eight 3-year-olds will go to the post Saturday in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), the last chance to pick up significant graded earnings before the May 7 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The standout in the field, 6-5 morning-line favorite Rockport Harbor, doesn't need the earnings, but definitely needs the race to make it to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May.

Only 20 3-year-olds can enter the gate for the Derby, and entry is based on graded earnings. The Lexington's purse is $325,000-added. Related story: Afleet Alex New Leader on Graded Earnings List

Rockport Harbor, unbeaten in four starts last year and an Eclipse Award finalist, began his 3-year-old season in Arkansas with trainer John Servis, but things have not gone according to plan. Bothered by a foot injury that ocurred at the end of last season, the son of Unbridled's Song was unable to make a scheduled start in the Southwest Stakes, and didn't make his 3-year-old debut until the March 19 Rebel Stakes (gr. III). Off nearly a four-month layoff, he ran a good second behind Greater Good after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Preparing for the April 16 Arkansas Derby, a blood clot was discovered in his neck, and the colt was unable to make that start. The gray colt seems back on track. He worked five furlongs in 1:02 last Saturday at Oaklawn prior to shipping to Kentucky. According to Servis, and owner Rick Porter, Rockport Harbor has a lot to prove to show he's ready to move on the Derby.

"I think we would have to win the race and win it impressively and have him finish well and not tire and just have a top-notch effort," said Porter earlier this week on a teleconference. "I guess that's what I'm looking for."

Even with a stellar effort, the road down I-64 to Louisville and Churchill Downs is a long one, especially off just a pair of 1 1/16 mile races.

However, the Lexington has been a strong springboard to the Derby; just ask Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. He has saddled three of the last six winners of the race: Charismatic in 1999, who went on to not only win the Derby but the Preakness (gr. I) as well; Proud Citizen, the Derby runner-up in 2002; and 2003 winner Scrimshaw, who ran third in that year's Preakness.

Lukas is back this year with Going Wild, a stakes-winning son of Golden Missile   who is coming off the worst race of his young career. Sent off the 5-2 second choice in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 9, he faded badly on the turn and eventually finished last of seven.

On the West Coast, Bob and Beverly Lewis' dark bay or brown colt rattled off three successive wins, including the six-furlong San Miguel and nine-furlong Sham Stakes prior to running a solid second to Declan's Moon in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita March 5. On Monday, Going Wild drilled five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:01 2/5.

With only $47,500 in graded earnings, Going Wild needs to add to his bankroll for Derby consideration.

Going Wild is not only horse seeking to get back in the Derby hunt. Of the others entered, Storm Surge seems to be holding the strongest hand. The Overbrook Farm homebred son of Storm Cat has been consistent with a 5-1-2 slate from 10 career starts, but has not started since a third-place finish behind High Limit and Vicarage in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 12. Trainer Dallas Stewart has worked the colt steadily, his latest move coming in 1:01 for five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sunday.

The Lexington, along with the Federico Tesio Stakes from Pimlico, will be shown live on ESPN2 on a program that runs from 4:30-5:30 EDT.

Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II), $325,000-added, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds, Keeneland, April 23
PP - Horse -- Jockey -- Morning Line
1 - Axecutive - Rafael Bejarano - 15-1
2 - Coin Silver - Javier Castellano - 6-1
3 - Storm Surge - Robby Albarado - 5-1
4 - Going Wild - Gary Stevens - 4-1
5 - Rockport Harbor - Stewart Elliot - 6-5
6 - Sort It Out - Pat Valenzuela - 5-1
7 - Skye'n Thunder - Mike Smith - 20-1
8 - Forever Wild - Jorge Chavez - 15-1

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