07/07/2005 11:00PM

Servis, Porter aim at a rich double


Five years ago, trainer John Servis won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga with Jostle, a 3-year-old filly owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm. A year later, Servis and Porter struck gold again with another 3-year-old filly, Zonk, who won the Delaware Oaks.

This summer, Servis and Porter have a legitimate shot at sweeping the $500,000 Delaware Oaks and the $750,000 Alabama with their lightly raced filly Round Pond.

Although she was unraced at 2 and was still a maiden 4 1/2 months ago, Round Pond has rapidly developed into one of the country's leading 3-year-old fillies. She has won 4 of 5 starts, most recently the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont Park.

Servis decided against bringing back Round Pond in the Mother Goose on June 25, and instead will run her in next Saturday's Grade 2 Delaware Oaks.

There are good reasons for the move. For one thing, the Oaks is worth nearly twice as much as the $300,000 Mother Goose. For another, Delaware Park is just a few miles north of Newark, Del., where Porter owns a car dealership. Last but not least, Servis said he felt the time between the Acorn and Mother Goose was insufficient for Round Pond.

"We are talking about a filly that had never had a race until this year, and I just felt the Mother Goose was a little quick back right back in three weeks," Servis said. "Our original goal is to go to the Alabama. It just looked to me the best way to go was through Delaware."

Servis also admitted winning the Oaks for a second time would be something special for himself and his client.

"The fact that we won the Oaks before and for Mr. Porter, I think it makes it more exciting for us," he said. "We have already talked about if we could get really lucky and win the Oaks again and the Alabama again, that would be unbelievable. It would be a great accomplishment."

Ten fillies have won both the Delaware Oaks and Alabama since 1938, including champions Vagrancy in 1942 and Desert Vixen in 1973. The feat was most recently accomplished by Island Fashion in 2003.

Servis explained that Round Pond didn't begin racing until last February at Oaklawn Park because of immaturity, not any physical ailment.

"She did not have any problems, other than immaturity," Servis said. "It was one of those deals where there was something about her. We felt she had more promise than she was showing, so we took our time. We ended up sending her back to the farm a couple of times to let her grow up.

"All of sudden the light went on and she just really figured it out. When she did figure it out, she improved so much in a short period of time, it was unbelievable. She went from doing things mediocre, to doing things eye-popping. Since then, she has just gone forward in a big way."

Round Pond worked out Wednesday between the fourth and fifth races at Philadelphia Park, breezing six furlongs in 1:10.54 over a muddy track.

As of Thursday, Sis City, freshened since finishing fourth as the odds-on favorite in the Kentucky Oaks on May 6, is the only other filly committed to the Delaware Oaks.

Silmaril follows Grove's formula

Trainer Chris Grove, based at the Bowie Training Center in Maryland, has noticed a distinct difference in the performance of two groups of horses he has run at Delaware Park this season.

"Everything we have been able to work over the track before a race has run real great," Grove said. "The horses I have shipped in that have not had the benefit of working over the track before a race have not run as good as I had anticipated."

Needless to say, Grove intends to made sure that Silmaril, his entry for next Sunday's $1 million Delaware Handicap, gets familiar with Delaware's track. Her scheduled work Friday morning was postponed by bad weather, but Silmaril is expected to work, most likely with regular rider Ryan Fogelsonger, over the track soon.

"She acclimates herself very quickly," said Grove, who has had Silmaril on the grounds since July 3. "I don't see the track being a problem for her, but I just want to cross my T's and dot my I's."

Silmaril has won 3 of 5 starts this season, including the Grade 3 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff. In that May 20 race, her most recent start, she defeated Ashado by three-quarters of a length.

"She ran such a big race at Pimlico when she beat Ashado, I just felt that if I had run her back in four weeks, she might have bounced," Grove said. "I wanted her to stay on edge and to go straight to the Del 'Cap. She came out of her last race so well, I figured let's take a shot at the million dollar purse."

One other definite starter for the Delaware Handicap is Two Trail Sioux, winner of the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 18.

Ashado remains a possible starter for the race, but is also under consideration for the Go for Wand at Saratoga on July 31.

- High Limit, winner of the Louisiana Derby, and Egg Head are two probables for the $300,000 Leonard Richards, a Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the Delaware Handicap undercard.

- Forest Park, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for winning his first stakes in the $55,000 Mo Bay last Monday, will be pointed to the $100,000 Teddy Drone, a six-furlong stakes on the Haskell Invitational undercard on Aug. 7 at Monmouth Park, according to trainer Mike Pino. Forest Park, who did not make his career debut until October of his 3-year-old season, has won 7 of 8 lifetime starts.