03/21/2005 1:00AM

Elliott's return trip a successful one


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - In his first trip back to Oaklawn since winning last year's Arkansas Derby with Smarty Jones, jockey Stewart Elliott came within a half-length of sweeping the track's weekend stakes for 3-year-olds.

Elliott was second in the Grade 3, $250,000 with Round Pond. Rockport Harbor was making his first start in 3 1/2 months in the Rebel.

"I thought he ran an awesome race," said Elliott, who was aboard for trainer John Servis. "He didn't get away good, and I think it cost him the race. He stumbled a little bit, then he got bumped, and that just set him back a little bit."

The situation left Rockport Harbor boxed in early, and Elliott managed to safely weave him outside of horses going into the first turn Saturday.

"I just had to give him somewhere to go," he said. "There was no pace, and he's very fast."

Rockport Harbor assumed the lead in the first turn and led until a few jumps before the wire, where he was caught by closer Greater Good. Rockport Harbor is now being pointed for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16.

"He has a lot of talent," said Elliott. "With that long stride and his speed, he just cruises. He's an awful nice horse."

So is Round Pond, who won the Honeybee by 5 3/4 lengths. Servis said she could make her next start in either the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy, which is run the day before the Arkansas Derby, or the $100,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup, which is on the undercard on Arkansas Derby Day.

"She's a quality filly," said Servis.

Fox Hill Farms owns both Rockport Harbor and Round Pond.

Emotional weekend for Howard

Trainer Tom Howard registered the first two Oaklawn wins of his career Friday and Saturday, shortly after his brother, jockey agent Roger Howard, died following a battle with cancer. Roger Howard, who died Thursday night, was 45.

"I don't know what to say," said Tom Howard. "I would call it a bittersweet weekend. Everybody is happy on the horse end of it, but the other is not happy."

Kathy Moore, a former jockey who married Tom Howard in November in Hot Springs, Ark., said all weekend she felt Roger Howard was looking over Tom.

"It was very emotional winning on Friday, then [Saturday]," she said. "I think it's one of the greatest things that could have happened."

Roger Howard was a popular jockey agent based in Texas. One of the other Howard brothers, Sam Howard, is a trainer. Their late father, Gerald Howard, bred Moonlark, a champion Quarter Horse. A funeral for Roger Howard was to be held Monday.

Tom Howard is a longtime trainer, but has a stable of his own at Oaklawn for the first time this meet. He had given up his stable in the 1970's and, up until the past year, had worked as an assistant for some of the top barns in the Southwest.

Howard has eight horses at Oaklawn for different clients, with Cool Rocket set to run in the seventh on Wednesday. His winner Friday was Mr. Rocket ($8.20), who was claimed, and on Saturday he won with J.G.'s Jazz ($37).

J.G.'s Jazz was ridden for the first time by John Byrne.

"The win was real special because his folks were over from Ireland," said Howard.

Eleven-year-old grabs 25th win

Taylor's Day became the second 11-year-old to win during the Oaklawn meet when he captured Sunday's fourth race, a $7,500 starter allowance. He was making the 100th start of his career, and overall has won 25 races. Earlier this meet, 11-year-old Chindi won an allowance. Taylor's Day is trained by John Cox.

One race after Taylor's Day's score, 11-year-old Bid the Zeal ran second in a $5,000 claimer for trainer Jearl Hare.

* Jockey Tim Doocy picked up career win No. 4,500 in the nightcap Sunday, when he guided Shasta T ($15.60) to a last-to-first victory for longtime client Steve Hobby.

* There will be no racing Sunday because of the Easter holiday.

* The pick six carryover Wednesday is $12,954.