11/27/2004 12:00AM

Rockport Harbor outfights 'Grocer'

Rockport Harbor (right), ridden by Stewart Elliott, wins a stretch-long duel with Galloping Grocer to take the Remsen and remain unbeaten in four starts.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Rockport Harbor proved he has as much heart as he does talent. Galloping Grocer proved his talent won't limit him to success exclusively in New York-bred company.

Rockport Harbor and Galloping Grocer - a combined 6 for 6 entering Saturday - staged a memorable battle in the Grade 2, $200,000 at Aqueduct, with Rockport Harbor having just enough to hold off Galloping Grocer by a neck. It was 8 1/4 lengths back to Killenaule in third.

Under Stewart Elliott, Rockport Harbor made an easy lead, then won a stirring three-furlong duel with Galloping Grocer, who had tracked Rockport Harbor from second under John Velazquez. Rockport Harbor's final time of 1:48.88 was the second fastest of 32 runnings of the Remsen at nine furlongs. Believe It ran nine furlongs in 1:47.80 in 1977.

Rockport Harbor, a son of Unbridled's Song trained by John Servis, won for the fourth time in as many starts in spite of being stepped on by Pavo in the early stages of the race. Rockport Harbor was bleeding significantly from his right hind foot.

Servis said he was "tickled to death" by the victory. "The original game plan was to have the same trip [Galloping Grocer] had. But he broke so sharp Stew had no shot of getting him back. The big challenge was at the head of the stretch. I was anxious to see how he was going to respond when a horse looked him in the eye, and he came through with flying colors.''

Rockport Harbor felt the whip for the first time and didn't seem to really respond to it.

"I think he ran just as hard as he had to,'' Elliott said. "It's hard for me to tell if there's any more horse there or not. It just seems like he was running enough just to stay in front.''

Servis said he felt the foot injury would not be serious considering Rockport Harbor is not expected to run again until Feb. 19 in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

"They'll put a bandage on it, put some medicine on it and we'll have to change [the bandage] every day,'' Servis said. "It's a long way from his heart, he'll be fine.''

Galloping Grocer will also be fine. Making his first start in open company, Galloping Grocer proved his worth by fighting the final three furlongs with Rockport Harbor. Velazquez said his horse reacted immaturely when he hit him with the whip for the first time.

"As soon as I spanked him he went back to his left lead and kind of pulled up,'' Velazquez said. "I tried to get him back to his right [lead] without hitting him. I showed him the whip and hit him on the shoulder. He switched back, but it was too late. He just needs to learn.''

Rockport Harbor returned $4.60 as a slight second choice behind Galloping Grocer, who was 6-5.

Sis City wires Demoiselle

Sis City ($2.80) got loose on an easy lead and led every step of the way en route to a 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 for 2-year-old fillies. Salute chased Sis City around the racetrack, and held second by a nose over Winning Season.

Sis City, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.39. She was making her fourth start since being claimed by Richard Dutrow Jr. for $50,000 on behalf of a group that includes New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

There was $364,368 bet to show - $344,882 on Sis City - creating a minus show pool of $60,199.

Saturday's attendance was 5,459.