03/12/2005 1:00AM

'Rockport' still Rebel-bound despite minor injury flare-up

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The injury that Rockport Harbor suffered to his right hind foot in the Grade 2 Remsen in November flared up on Saturday, one day after the Kentucky Derby candidate put in his final major preparations for the Grade 3, $250,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park this Saturday. John Servis, who trains the colt, told Oaklawn officials he was confident Rockport Harbor would still make the Rebel.

"Right now, I don't consider this a big deal," said Servis. "It's like an ingrown toenail in human terms."

Servis also said Saturday morning that Rockport Harbor was likely to return to the track on Sunday

"He should be good tomorrow," Bobby Velez, an assistant trainer to Servis, said late Saturday afternoon. "I think he's pretty good right now."

Rockport Harbor was stepped on by another rival in the Remsen, and the incident created a gash that was a half-inch deep and extended about 2 1/2 inches, from the bottom of his pastern through the bulb of the heel of his foot.

Servis told track officials that Saturday's flare-up was being treated with a poultice pad, and that he expected to know more particulars on Sunday. The hind foot flare-up is not related to the tenderness Rockport Harbor experienced in his left front foot last month, a situation that was resolved quickly when a blacksmith pared out a portion of the sole of his foot and reset his shoe.

Rockport Harbor has won all four of his starts, including the Remsen and Grade 3 Nashua, both at Aqueduct. He races for Fox Hill Farm.