02/25/2005 12:00AM

Rockport Harbor, Afleet Alex leg up

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Afleet Alex works a bullet six furlongs Friday at Oaklawn under Jeremy Rose. Trainer Tim Ritchey liked what he saw.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The 3-year-old muscle at Oaklawn Park put on a show Friday morning when both Rockport Harbor and Afleet Alex, ranked second and third on Daily Racing Form's Derby Watch, put in major workouts. The colts are preparing for a showdown in the Grade 3, $250,000 Rebel at Oaklawn on March 19, the first of their two scheduled at this meet for the Kentucky Derby. The other is the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16.

Greater Good, a Grade 2 winner who won the $100,000 on Feb. 19, is also pointing for the Rebel, giving Oaklawn a deep crop of 3-year-olds one year after Smarty Jones used Oaklawn's races as a springboard to winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones, worked Rockport Harbor, his undefeated Grade 2 Remsen winner, seven furlongs in 1:27.40 on Friday. The drill was his first since a tender left front foot forced him to miss two days of training, including a scheduled one-mile workout last Sunday.

"I'm very happy," said Servis. "It's a lot more progress than I thought I was going to be [making] at the beginning of the week."

Afleet Alex, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful, went six furlongs in company in a bullet 1:13.71. While the work was just his second of the year, he showed he could run in the Rebel if the race were held tomorrow. He accomplished the task with ease.

"He was well within himself," said Tim Ritchey, who trains Afleet Alex. "He was bouncing coming back with the pony, so it didn't take anything out of him."

The temperature Friday morning was in the 30's, and the track was fast, if a little dull. Rockport Harbor came onto the track at 7:15 a.m. Central, and, accompanied by a pony ridden by assistant trainer Bobby Velez, backtracked to the quarter pole before working from the six-furlong pole to past the wire at the seven-eighths pole. It was Rockport Harbor's first work under jockey Willie Martinez. Velez had been aboard for Rockport Harbor's three other timed works.

The drill was the colt's first since Feb. 11, and he was eager going into it. He was timed in 11.93 seconds for his opening eighth, covered a quarter in 23.73, and three furlongs in 35.96, his long stride eating up ground and belying the quick fractions. He continued through a half-mile in 48.22 seconds, five furlongs in 1:01.48, and six furlongs in 1:14.07 before galloping out the mile in 1:41.64.

"I was afraid he'd want to do too much [early] because he hadn't done anything in so long," said Servis, who looked on from the trainer stand at Oaklawn.

Servis said he was pleased with the workout and how Rockport Harbor galloped out and cooled out. He confirmed that the once-tender foot was fine. Next week, Rockport Harbor will probably work one mile, said Servis.

There was one other seven-furlong work on the tab. Kichwa Tembo, an unstarted 3-year-old, was timed in 1:30.20.

Afleet Alex worked at about 9:10 a.m., right after the renovation break, with jockey Jeremy Rose aboard. Ritchey accompanied the pair on a pony. Afleet Alex went into his work at the six-furlong pole, breaking off about four or five lengths behind workmate Tisawink, a 4-year-old allowance runner.

Afleet Alex sat behind his stablemate down the backside, moved closer to him around the turn, was within a length of Tisawink at the quarter pole, then passed him as soon as he was asked while straightening for home. Afleet Alex's fractions were 12.83 seconds for the opening eighth of a mile, 24.33 for a quarter-mile, 36.70 for three furlongs, 49.84 for four furlongs, and 1:01.76 for five furlongs. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.57.