03/10/2006 1:00AM

Rockport Harbor might lay off pace


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rockport Harbor from off the pace? Maybe.

Depending on the pace, trainer John Servis said, Rockport Harbor could employ a new running style Sunday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

"I think you might see him stalking this time, unless they go 24, 48," Servis said. "If they do that, then he'll be in front."

five career wins have all been wire to wire. But he is now 4, and more settled in his training. Last out, he won the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex at Oaklawn on Feb. 11 off a nine-month layoff.

"I think we're at the point now where we need to start teaching this horse some different options," said Servis. "I hate to think he's one-dimensional."

Servis has never thought that of Rockport Harbor, a big-striding colt who is deceptively fast. For most of his races at 2, he was simply better than his rivals.

Then last year, flare-ups of an old foot injury interrupted his training, and without being able to train on a consistent basis, Rockport Harbor was often a "fresh" horse, and ran like it when he darted to the lead out of the gate in the Grade 3 Rebel.

"He's been able to train on a regular basis, and it's been a long time since he's done that," said Servis.

Rockport Harbor is also still learning how to race. He has made just seven career starts, and one of his best was the Essex, when he set the pace over a tiring track, then withstood a challenge from Cougar Cat.

"I thought he ran great," said Servis. "That was his first race in a long time and I can't imagine him not moving forward off of that. As a matter of fact, I think there's a very good opportunity six months from now for us to see a whole lot different horse than what we've seen so far, as far as better. There's just so much room there, racing-wise and maturity-wise for him to get better."

Rockport Harbor races for Rick Porter; Stewart Elliott will ride.

The chief threat in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback could be the quick .

* Robby Albarado will have the mount on Steppenwolfer in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel, trainer Dan Peitz said.