04/02/2006 11:00PM

Weight an issue for Round Pond


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The anticipated rematch between Round Pond and Happy Ticket is not a given. Trainer John Servis on Monday said he and Rick Porter, the owner of Round Pond, are contemplating whether or not they will run Round Pond in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

Last month, Round Pond and Happy Ticket finished a neck apart in the Grade 3, $175,000 Azeri Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn, with Round Pond carrying 115 pounds. The weight assignments for the Apple Blossom were released over the weekend. Round Pond and Happy Ticket are co-highweighted at 119 pounds, with Star Parade next on the list at 117. Giving two pounds to multiple Grade 1 winner Star Parade, who comes into the Apple Blossom off a Grade 1 win, is a sticking point with Servis.

"I told Mr. Porter I'm not happy at all with the weights," he said. "We're discussing it and we're going to have to decide. It's her third start of the year. She's a May 21 foal. We've got a long year ahead of us."

Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope said Star Parade is picking up weight off her last start. She toted 116 when she won the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 11.

"Mares go up and down every time they race, whether it's a Grade 1 or Grade 2, and you adjust accordingly to where they ran last time, how much weight they carried, and what location they ran," said Pope.

He said he co-highweighted Round Pond and Happy Ticket based on their past performance. "They're both Grade 1 winners," said Pope. "Happy Ticket ran a superb race and Round Pond beat her, and Round Pond is undefeated going two turns here at Oaklawn Park."

Round Pond won the Grade 1 Acorn last year, and has won an allowance and the Azeri in her two starts this year. She worked five furlongs in 1:03.87 on Sunday at Oaklawn. She worked after the renovation break, and drifted midway on the turn and in the stretch, and after the work was found to have a cut in her mouth, said Servis. Round Pond ponied a mile on Monday.

"She had a pretty good-size cut in her mouth," said Servis. "When the dentist looked at it, he said, 'You caught it perfect. This is no big deal. You'll make the race with no problem.' He did some work on her, and we've been rinsing her mouth with salt water and putting some tincture on there. I sent her out this morning and jogged her and she was playing and full of herself."

Servis said he could put a two-minute lick into Round Pond on Thursday.

Star Parade and Hollywood Story, who is weighted at 116, are scheduled to be flown in from Southern California on Wednesday. Officials here said Spun Sugar, 116, was to be flown in from Florida on Tuesday. Took Out, 110, is possible for the Apple Blossom, while Platinum Ballet, 112, is nominated and worked a half-mile in 49.74 seconds here Monday.

"We're leaning toward the Apple Blossom," Donnie Von Hemel, who trains Platinum Ballet, said Monday.

Platinum Ballet was third in the Azeri.

Buzzards Bay highweighted at 118

The Apple Blossom and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on Saturday open Oaklawn's annual Racing Festival of the South. Over the final week of the meet, nine stakes worth $2.8 million will be decided; the festival ends on April 15 with the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Buzzards Bay will fly in from Southern California on Wednesday. Jose Valdivia Jr. has the mount, said trainer Ron Ellis. Others officials consider probable for the Oaklawn are Purim, 117; Magnum, 115; Gouldings Green, 113; Master Command, 113; Spellbinder, 113; and With Distinction, 113.

Corey Lanerie has the mount on Gouldings Green, said trainer Anthony Reinstedler.

High Cotton to Arkansas Derby

High Cotton is being pointed for the Arkansas Derby, according to Pletcher, his trainer. In his last start, High Cotton was a powerful winner of the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park.

Arkansas Derby favorite Lawyer Ron galloped on Monday morning, his first day back to the track after breezing a bullet four furlongs in 48.03 seconds Saturday. Bob Holthus, who trains Lawyer Ron, said he came out of the drill in good order and will have his final work for the Arkansas Derby on Saturday.

Lawyer Ron has won his last five starts, his latest the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn. Others considered probable for the Arkansas Derby are Private Vow, Red Raymond, Steppenwolfer, Achilles of Troy, Well Said, Nob Hill Deelite, and Sayhellotolarry, who worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Sunday at Oaklawn.

Oaklawn officials are also expecting Sinister Minister, from trainer Bob Baffert, in the Arkansas Derby. Film Fortune is possible for the race, his trainer, Jack Van Berg, said Monday.

Holthus has seven horses for festival stakes

Holthus is loaded for the festival. He has seven horses pointing to stakes, led by Lawyer Ron and Red Raymond in the Arkansas Derby. He said Beau Dare, winner of last year's Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, is being pointed for the $100,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup on April 15.

Hallowed Flag and Kings Challenge are aiming for the $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup the same day, while Greater Good will go in the Grade 3, $100,000 Fifth Season on April 12. Level Playingfield is set for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 13.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman