ELMONT, N.Y. - The first Saturday in June last year at Belmont Park brings back bad memories for trainer John Servis, who saw his chance of making racing history fall one length short when Smarty Jones was denied the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown by Birdstone.
Servis hopes for more pleasant memories on the first Saturday in June this year. That's when Servis returns to Belmont to saddle Round Pond in the $250,000 Acorn Stakes. The Grade 1 Acorn is run at one mile.
Round Pond, a daughter of Awesome Again, has won her last three starts, including the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 15. Never intending to run her in the Kentucky Oaks, Servis was pointing Round Pond to the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 20. But upon returning East from Oaklawn, Round Pond got sick and missed some training time, which forced her to miss the Black-Eyed Susan.
Since resuming training, Round Pond has put in a solid work tab that includes a five-furlong drill in 57.71 seconds Monday at Philadelphia Park.
"She's getting better every week,'' Servis said Wednesday from Philadelphia Park. "She's a late May foal and it took a little time for her to come around.''
Round Pond didn't debut until February, when she finished third in a six-furlong maiden race at Oaklawn. She caught some traffic trouble that day, but according to Servis, Round Pond galloped out past the field after the wire.
Stewart Elliott, who was the regular rider of Smarty Jones, will be here from Monmouth to ride Round Pond.
Round Pond will face a solid field that includes Kentucky Oaks runner-up In the Gold, La Troienne winner Seek a Star, Nassau County winner Seeking the Ante, Spinaway and Matron winner Sense of Style, Hollywood Starlet winner Splendid Blended, and Smuggler.
Rockport Harbor back in training
Servis reported that Rockport Harbor, his talented 3-year-old colt, galloped Wednesday at Philadelphia Park for the first time since finishing sixth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23.
"He's been training for five days,'' Servis said. "Today we turned him around and galloped him and he went super. We're moving forward.''
Rockport Harbor won all four of his starts at 2, but is 0 for 2 this year. His troubles began when he got stepped on during the running of the Remsen last November. Servis was battling problems with Rockport Harbor's right rear foot as well as a blood clot in the colt's neck this spring while trying to get him ready for the Triple Crown. Rockport Harbor finished second in the Rebel Stakes before the Lexington.
Regarding the foot, Servis said, "Don't expect that to be an issue the rest of the year.''
At the time Rockport Harbor was pulled from the Triple Crown trail, owner Rick Porter and Servis expressed hope he could make races such as the Haskell and Travers later this summer.
"He usually comes around pretty fast, he's such a big striding horse,'' Servis said. "I don't have any set goals. We'll see how he comes along and choose a spot when we get closer.''