04/11/2005 12:00AM

Rockport Harbor skips Arkansas Derby

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Rockport Harbor, working seven furlongs Sunday, is being pointed to the Coolmore Lexington.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rockport Harbor, who missed training because of a blood clot, will pass the Arkansas Derby on Saturday and make his next start in the Grade 2, $325,000 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland on April 23.

Rockport Harbor worked seven furlongs in company in 1:25.60 on Sunday morning under jockey Stewart Elliott. Before he leaves for Kentucky, which trainer John Servis said will be either Sunday or Monday, Rockport Harbor will work here once more.

"He's just not going to be ready for the Arkansas Derby," said Servis. "If the blood clot doesn't come, I think we'd have made the Arkansas Derby."

Rockport Harbor was training for Saturday's Arkansas Derby when a blood clot in a neck vein was discovered April 3. It cost him four days of training.

Servis said Rockport Harbor had an ultrasound performed on his neck Friday, and the results were excellent.

On Sunday, Rockport Harbor went into his work at the seven-furlong pole and raced as a team with Pilfer, edging away from the mare late. Rockport Harbor's fractional times were 11.99 seconds for the opening eighth, 23.56 for the opening quarter, 34.99 for three furlongs, 46.89 for the half-mile mark, and 59.52 for five furlongs. He finished the work at the wire and galloped out one mile in 1:40.90, according to clockers at Oaklawn.

"He got out of the work what I wanted to get out of it," said Servis. "This work will move him up a lot."

Servis said he plans to ask Keeneland stewards for permission to work Rockport Harbor out an additional eighth of a mile following the Lexington, which is run at 1 1/16 miles as opposed to the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Arkansas Derby. Rockport Harbor remains a candidate for the Kentucky Derby.

He was the early favorite for the Arkansas Derby following a bang-up second-place finish in the Grade 3 Rebel at Oaklawn on March 19 in his first start at 3. Last year, Rockport Harbor won all four of his races, including the Grade 2 Remsen at 1 1/8 miles in November. He is owned by Fox Hill Farms.

Arkansas Derby to be drawn Wednesday

The field for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby is expected to be a full one, and it will be drawn Wednesday. Officials have at least 11 probables for the race, including Afleet Alex and Greater Good, who have wintered all season at Oaklawn.

Cat Shaker will be a $50,000 supplement to the race, and he breezed three furlongs in 37.60 seconds Monday at Oaklawn in preparation for the race. Others expected for the race include Flower Alley and Wild Desert, the one-two finishers in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End.

The Arkansas Derby will close out the meet Saturday, and it will be part of a special pick four with the Blue Grass from Keeneland. The other races in the sequence will be stakes from Oaklawn and Keeneland.

Sharp Lisa draws gate No. 9

Post positions for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy were drawn Monday, and probable favorite Sharp Lisa drew the widest post, No. 9. A 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, the Fantasy is a prep for the Kentucky Oaks.

The complete field for the race, from the rail with riders, is The Beter Man Can, E.J. Perrodin; Cape Hope, Calvin Borel; Rugula, Greta Kuntzweiler; Round Pond, Stewart Elliott; Yankee Penny, Jose Santos; Jill Robin L., John McKee; She Sings, Jamie Theriot; and R Lady Joy, Jose Lezcano.

The top local hope in the race is Round Pond, who turned in a sparkling five-furlong work Sunday. Under regular rider Elliott, she easily covered the distance in 58.63 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:10.77.

Round Pond won her maiden at six furlongs in her second career start earlier this meet and, in her most recent out, made the move to two turns and won the $75,000 Honeybee, the local prep for the Fantasy.

"She continues to surprise me," said Servis, who trains Round Pond for Fox Hill Farms. "She gets better and better."

Tight jockey race at Oaklawn

Heading into the final week of the meet, jockeys Calvin Borel and Jeremy Rose are tied atop the standings at Oaklawn. In all, four wins separate the top six riders at the meet, with Luis Quinonez and Jamie Theriot tied for second with 42 wins each, and Roman Chapa right behind those two with 40. John McKee ranks next with 39 wins, and with a stakes double last weekend leads all riders in mount earnings with $1,492,700.

Quinonez ranks second in earnings with $1,016,552. He said one of the highlights of his career came earlier this season when in the span of two days at Oaklawn he won both the Grade 3, $175,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup with Injustice and the Grade 3, $100,000 Razorback with Added Edge.

McKee and Quinonez were among the riders who participated in a stick-horse race at Coy's Steak House in Hot Springs on Friday night. A favorite with patrons at the restaurant, which is decorated with racing memorabilia, the popular contest was won by a late-surging Cindy Noll.

Cole Norman has locked up his fifth straight training title at Oaklawn, and going into the races Wednesday he had won 61 races. The second-leading trainers, Bob Holthus and Steve Asmussen, had each won 21.

Gary Owens leads Michael Gill by one win in the owner standings at Oaklawn.

* McDowell Farm of Sparkman, Ark., was honored as the state's leading breeder during the Arkansas Thoroughbred Breeders and Horsemen's Association's annual awards dinner Saturday. McDowell bred the state's horse of the year, Quote Me Later, and also stands Bold Anthony, who led all stallions in Arkansas-bred progeny earnings in 2004.