- Strike up the Rocky theme, he’s back. Rockport Harbor (Unbridled’s Song) makes his first start since his disastrous outing (at 3-5!) in the Lexington Stakes, a desperate attempt to make it to the Derby last April 23, in the G3 Essex at Oaklawn on Saturday. His owner Rick Porter says he’s a different animal now. "I think Rocky is much tougher now and has gained about 300 pounds since last year."
"His gallops have been different because he's gotten much tougher this year," said [trainer John] Servis. "Before, he would go out there and just lope around and I'd actually put some two-minute licks in him. I can't do that this year because he's just too tough. You two-minute lick him and he's going to be gone.He shows four workouts in the Form going back to Dec 29, but remember that he was working out at Oaklawn as early as late November, before there were any clockers there.
"For the last two and a half, three weeks, every day has been a struggle with him to just keep him from wanting to roll." [Daily Racing Form]
He’s a charismatic horse who showed tons of heart winning the Remsen despite suffering the gash that caused all of his problems, and then running that gritty second to Greater Good, also in the Essex field (though with dismal recent form). So I gotta root for Rocky here….but that doesn’t mean I can't take a shot against at a price. It's kinda like a hedge.
Steve Asmussen sends out Real Dandy (Yankee Victor) for his four year-old debut, but he’s a plodder who is sure to be overbet, as he usually is. Instead, check out Jonesboro (Sefapiano) (who?) for a possible flyer. It took him six tries to get his first win, but significantly, that came on his first try at Oaklawn, at a mile last January. Four months later in his next start, he won a stakes at this mile and a sixteenth route, also at Oaklawn, improving to a lifetime best 94 Beyer. He suffered an injury afterwards, but came back last month with a rousing sprint victory, closing stoutly at six furlongs at Louisiana Downs. Now he returns to a track and distance that he obviously loves; and the ‘Closer Look’ column in the Form says that “Local wiseguys say this is the horse the way he has been training..” He looks worth a shot at his morning line of 6-1 or higher. But more importantly, let’s hope that Rockport Harbor runs well; he’s a great story and the kind of horse who could create some real excitement in the handicap division this year.