02/14/2006 12:00AM

Rockport Harbor still has room to improve


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rockport Harbor's focused win in the Grade 3, $100,000 last Saturday was the perfect building block for a 4-year-old campaign in which he could establish himself as one of the top older horses in the country. The race was his first start in nine months, and he set the pace over a laboring track, withstood a stretch challenge, and pulled clear. For his effort, Rockport Harbor earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

"That race will move him forward big time," said John Servis, who trains Rockport Harbor. "That race will be like the Southwest was for Smarty."

In 2004, Servis sent out the eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Smarty Jones, to capture the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn by three-quarters of a length in his first start in two months. One race later, Smarty Jones won the Rebel by 3 1/4 lengths and earned the second-best Beyer Figure of his career, a 112.

Servis said Rockport Harbor is now being pointed for the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback on March 12. His meet objective remains the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 8.

In the Essex, Rockport Harbor showed determination when he fought off a bid from Cougar Cat. It was similar to the tenacity he displayed in the Grade 2 Remsen in 2004, when, after being stepped on by a rival early in the race, he went on to a neck win over the previously undefeated Galloping Grocer.

"He's a fighter," said Stewart Elliott, regular rider on Rockport Harbor. "He showed that in the Remsen. Not only did he fight off that horse, but he was injured. . . . So, he showed a lot of heart. He does have a determination to win."

Rockport Harbor, whose right hind foot was severely gashed in the Remsen, was given most of last year off to allow the foot to grow out.

Lawyer Ron set for Southwest

Lawyer Ron is sitting on ready for the $250,000 Southwest on Monday after working five furlongs to the wire in 1:00.10 on Tuesday. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.86. Lawyer Ron worked right after the renovation break under regular rider John McKee.

"John said he did it well within himself," said Bob Holthus, who trains Lawyer Ron. "We'll just gallop him into the race from here."

Lawyer Ron won the Grade 3 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs in his last start, and is one of two starters Holthus has for the Southwest. The trainer also plans to start Red Raymond, a stakes winner who breezed six furlongs in 1:01.60 on Tuesday. He is to be ridden by Luis Quinonez.

Others considered probable for the Southwest are Barbican, Hyte Regency, Kingsfield, Mark of Success, Scanlon's Song, Steppenwolfer, and Travelin Leroy. Possibles include Admiral's Arch, Celluloid Hero and Fidrych.

Brilliant to meet Jolted and Jostled

Brilliant, who ran one of the quickest miles of the meet when he won his maiden on Jan. 20, and Jolted and Jostled, the first foal from Grade 1 winner Jostle, will meet in a one-mile allowance for 3-year-olds on Thursday. The race also drew Well Said, who figures prominently for trainer Walter Bindner Jr., and Stalwartly, a half-brother to 2002 sprint champion Orientate in training with Steve Asmussen.

Brilliant could go favored following his three-length score last out, for which he earned a Beyer Figure of 84. He covered the distance in 1:39.

"He came through the lane nice and galloped out good," said Neil Howard, who trains Brilliant. "He's a nice horse. He's got a good demeanor. He's a real professional on the racetrack."

Howard has given the mount to Robby Albarado.

Jolted and Jostled overcame post 12 to win his maiden last out in a one-mile race Jan. 20. Servis has given the mount to Elliott.

* The pick six carryover for Thursday is $30,749.