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Rockport Harbor wins the 2004 Remsen Stakes


2004 Remsen Stakes

Rockport Harbor edges Galloping Groder in the 2004 Remsen Stakes

Walter Pitcher
Fox Hill Farm's Rockport Harbor got the jump on five rival two-year-olds Saturday afternoon, then dug in to hold off favored Galloping Grocer and win the 91st running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen by a neck over favored Galloping Grocer. The winning time of 1:48 4/5 was the second-fastest Remsen at the distance. Only Believe It's 1977 clocking of 1:47 4/5 was faster.

Both Rockport Harbor and the New York-bred Galloping Grocer entered the Remsen highly regarded and undefeated. Neither disappointed. Galloping Grocer shadowed Rockport Harbor all the way, as the winner set a pace of :23 4/5; :47 1/5; 1:10 and 1:35 2/5. The victory, worth $4.60 to the $2 win players, was the fourth in as many tries for Rockport Harbor, a son of Unbridled's Song. But it came at a price.

"Somebody ran up on his back end, and his back right-quarter was just hanging," said trainer John Servis. "This was going to be his last race until next year, anyway; the way it looks, we're probably going to have to sew it back. It was pretty nasty looking." Servis, who trained 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, can expect Rockport Harbor to inherit the spotlight, now that he has won this big race and handled, two turns, distance and competition.

"Galloping Grocer came up to me and I kept letting my horse out," said winning jockey Stewart Elliott. "(Galloping Grocer) was there, he was there and he wasn't going away. I had enough horse to hold him off. I think my horse had to run as hard as he had to; it's hard for me to tell whether there was more horse there because he was running enough just to stay in front. This was the first time he was hooked. He had to run and he did. So far, so good. He's done everything we've asked him to do. But as far as comparing him to Smarty Jones, he has big shoes to fill."

Although he lost for the first time in four starts, Galloping Grocer convinced many that he will be a factor in the spring three-year-old races. "He ran great. I was real happy with his race," said trainer Dominick Schettino. "This was a much stiffer test than what he was running against. This race will do him a lot of good. He is only going to get better. We'll see how he comes out of it and go from there." Added jockey John Velazquez: "I thought he ran a great race. He needs to learn. We've never really had to squeeze him and spank him or get serious with him. I had to get serious with him early in the race. At the three-sixteenths pole, I said, `Oh, I'm going to win this.' I spanked him and he switched back to his left lead. He started looking at the horse inside again. I was trying to get him back on his right lead. I showed him the whip and hit him on the shoulder. He came back, but it was too late. He just needs to learn."

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