05/25/2012 3:34PM

Belmont: Compliance Officer would relish soft turf in Kingston Stakes


ELMONT, N.Y. – Compliance Officer gets a chance to complete his own personal Grand Slam of sorts when he makes his seasonal debut in Sunday’s $125,000 Kingston Stakes for New York-breds going one mile at Belmont Park.

Last year, Compliance Officer won the West Point, Ashley T. Cole, and Mohawk – three of the four traditional turf races restricted to New York-breds en route to being named champion New York-bred turf male. Perhaps the only reason he didn’t win the Kingston is because he wasn’t in it.

It was 54 weeks ago that owner Thomas La Marca and trainer Bruce Brown claimed Compliance Officer for $25,000 from Klaravich Stables and trainer Terri Pompay.

He proceeded to win five consecutive state-bred races before taking a swing – and a miss – in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he finished 11th of 13. He ended his year with a victory in the Claiming Crown Emerald at Fair Grounds.

After a vacation, Compliance Officer returns in this race, and though he hasn’t run in six months, Brown likes how his horse is coming into it.

“It would have been nice to get a race into him, but he’s doing great,” Brown said. “I couldn’t be asking any more from him. He’s really come back like he was never gone.”

The prospect of a turf course with give in the ground is ideal for Compliance Officer, who won four consecutive races against state-breds last year over ground that was yielding or good, which is likely to be the case on Sunday.

“The softer the better for him,” Brown said. “He’s run better on good courses than anything.”

Compliance Officer will break from the extreme outside post in an eight-horse field. As the 123-pound highweight, Compliance Officer will concede 3 to 7 pounds.

He will concede 7 pounds to Street Game, who was voted last year’s champion New York-bred 3-year-old. Street Game reeled off three consecutive victories over Belmont’s turf course, including a 7 1/4-length score in the Grade 3 Hill Prince going a mile over yielding ground.

Street Game won an open company allowance race at Gulfstream on Feb. 5 before finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Appleton, also at Gulfstream where the course was hard and firm most of the winter. Trainer Phil Serpe said the horse prefers ground a little softer.

“Given that excuse and coming back with state-breds, I got to think he should run well,” said Serpe, who makes a rider switch to Ramon Dominguez.

Pocket Cowboys won last year’s Kingston in gate-to-wire fashion, able to get away with soft early fractions. That scenario is unlikely to play out on Sunday with the likes of Writingonthewall, Abilio, and Mr. Vegas in the field.