Updated on 09/15/2011 1:12PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Juvenile (10/11)


As a former assistant to Bob Baffert and current head trainer of Godolphin Racing's North American juvenile division, Eoin Harty has been around his share of top 2-year-olds.

But, he says he has never seen anything like Officer, his former boss's new top gun, who likely will be the heaviest favorite in the eight Breeders' Cup races on the World Thoroughbred Championships card at Belmont Park Oct. 27.

Following Officer's demonstrative 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont - which made him 5 for 5 - Harty paid Officer the ultimate compliment.

"If he stays the way he is, you're looking at the next Secretariat," Harty said. "Nobody knows how good he is."

Still, Harty plans to tackle Officer with his duo of Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham, the one-two finishers in the Grade 2 Norfolk at Santa Anita. Ibn Al Haitham, who is still a maiden, will be supplemented for $90,000.

"There's only one Breeders' Cup," Harty said. "It's like having one Kentucky Derby: you take a shot. Realistically, you're running for second, but you don't know what's going to happen."

Baffert compared Officer to another racing legend. "He reminds me a lot of Seattle Slew, just his brilliance, and he moves like him," Baffert said.

Seattle Slew is the great-grandsire of Officer, having sired Septieme Ciel, who sired St. Helen's Shadow, the dam of Officer.

The emergence of Officer has helped soften the blow of having to retire Point Given for Baffert and Prince Ahmed Salman, the head of The Thoroughbred Corp, which owns Officer. Officer has already surpassed Point Given's 2-year-old year by winning the Champagne, a race Point Given finished second in a year ago. Point Given also finished second in the Breeders' Cup, falling a nose short to Macho Uno.

"I can't really compare him with Point Given," Baffert said. "Point Given lost a lot of races from just bad racing luck. He should have won the Champagne, he should have won the Breeders' Cup. This horse is limber on his feet, he's quick and fast and puts himself in the right spots."

Baffert shipped Officer back to California on Tuesday and will train him at Santa Anita before shipping him back to New York on Oct. 23.

Although he has been brilliant, Officer has never faced more than six rivals in any race. He figures to have at least 10 challengers in the Juvenile. They include Came Home, Siphonic, and Johannesburg, all unbeaten.

Came Home is 3 for 3, including a win in the Grade 1 Hopeful. Filling in an ankle kept him out of the Norfolk, but he has resumed training. Came Home was scheduled to work Thursday at Santa Anita. Chris McCarron, who has been aboard for all three of Came Home's starts, was scheduled to work him. He was expected to decide by Friday whether to ride Came Home or Siphonic in the Juvenile.

Last weekend McCarron guided Siphonic to a six-length victory in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, Siphonic's second win in as many starts. Siphonic arrived at Belmont on Wednesday along with Metatron, the third-place finisher from the Breeders' Futurity.

"Our colt's had only two races, but he ran like he had run a dozen times," said David Hofmans, trainer of Siphonic. "That impressed me more than the distance he won by and the time."

Johannesburg, a son of 1995 Juvenile runner-up Hennessy, made it 6 for 6 with a victory last week in the Middle Park Stakes. Trainer Aidan O'Brien told reporters in Europe he didn't think the dirt or the distance of the Juvenile would be a problem for Johannesburg.