04/04/2005 11:00PM

Cape Hope switches surfaces for Fantasy

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The Apple Blossom, Oaklawn Handicap, and Arkansas Derby tend to get most of the attention during the Racing Festival of the South, but one race that is coming up gangbusters is the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy, which will be run here April 15.

The Fantasy, which had its purse increased this year by $50,000, is a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Cape Hope, who has won her last four starts, will go in the Fantasy, trainer Dallas Stewart said Tuesday. She will be moving back to dirt for the 1 1/16-mile race for the first time since she finished third in a maiden special weight at Turfway Park.

"We'll give it a shot," said Stewart. "She's doing great and she ran on dirt twice and ran well both times."

Cape Hope's move to turf for her third career start last December coincided with her move to two turns, and she has been unbeaten since. She won her maiden and an entry-level allowance in one-mile turf races at Fair Grounds, and in her last two starts has won turf routes at Gulfstream Park, the $60,000 Gaily Gaily and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride.

Stewart said Calvin Borel has the mount on Cape Hope. Others who track officials consider probable for the race are Jill Robin L, winner of the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss in her last start March 5; R Lady Joy, winner of the $150,000 Florida Oaks on March 19; Round Pond and Rugula, the one-two finishers in the $75,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn on March 20; She Sings, who was third last out in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks; and The Beter Man Can, winner of the $100,000 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds in January.

Round Pond had a two-minute lick at Oaklawn on Tuesday, and next week will probably drill five-eighths of a mile for the Fantasy, said her trainer, John Servis, who has given the mount to Stewart Elliott.

'Rocky' due back on track

Servis said Tuesday that Rockport Harbor was scheduled to jog on Wednesday. Rockport Harbor has walked since Saturday, when he was found to have a blood clot in a vein in his neck. He was making progress as of Tuesday, but a decision on his status for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16 will not be made until after he works, said Servis.

"He's much better," said Servis. "Two days ago, he was hanging on the webbing. Now, he's bright-eyed and full of himself. He's much happier. A blood clot is very painful. You can touch [the area] now, so I think it's dissolving pretty good."

The location of the blood clot, in the vein as opposed to the muscle, is uncommon.

"I've never had one [like that], and I've been training for 20-something years," said Servis.

'Alex' and 'Good' on deck for derby

Afleet Alex returned to the track on Tuesday and galloped one mile following an important weekend work. Afleet Alex breezed one mile in 1:40.88 on Sunday in his penultimate work for the Arkansas Derby. The move was a strong one, as he came home his last three-eighths of a mile in 34.80 seconds, according to his trainer, Tim Ritchey.

Greater Good also galloped at Oaklawn on Tuesday, and remains on course for the Arkansas Derby.

Others officials consider probable for the race are Andromeda's Hero, Baston Challenge, Flower Alley, Real Dandy, and Wild Desert.

Coa on House of Fortune

Eibar Coa has the mount on House of Fortune in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on Saturday, said her trainer, Ron McAnally. House of Fortune ran one of the best races of her career last year at Oaklawn when she captured the Fantasy.

McAnally said he won't have a starter in this year's Fantasy, but he might have another Festival starter in Good Student, who could start in the $100,000 Bayakoa on Sunday.

The Bayakoa nominations were released on Tuesday, and the early probables include Casual Attitude, La Reason, and Platinum Ballet. Possibles include Two Trail Sioux, who has won her last four starts and is trained by Wally Dollase.

* Snowbird, a nine-length winner earlier in the meet, takes on the comebacking Mary Alex in the featured 10th race, an allowance for fillies, on Thursday.