Updated on 09/15/2011 1:09PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Juvenile (10/4)


After dominating the juveniles out West, Officer will take on what is left of a depleted East Coast 2-year-old division when he runs in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne at Belmont Park.

Officer, undefeated in four starts, is expected to face only four challengers in the Champagne, one of two Saturday preps leading up to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 27. At Keeneland, California-based 2-year-olds Kamsack and Siphonic head an expected eight-horse field for the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity.

Those two left California to avoid facing Came Home in the Norfolk and stayed away from New York primarily to avoid Officer, who won his first four starts by a combined 22 1/2 lengths. Although Officer won the Del Mar Futurity by only 1 1/2

lengths, he did it effortlessly.

"I've had some nice 2-year-olds, but he just does it so easy," said trainer Bob Baffert. "He won the Del Mar Futurity in such easy fashion, all those races down there, he won them in a gallop. So far, he's shown so much brilliance. My job is to keep him sound and let him do the work."

Keeping horses sound in the juvenile division has been extremely

difficult. A bevy of nice horses are already sidelined, including Mayakovsky, Buster's Daydream, Thunderello, In High Gear, Warners, and Pure Precision.

That's one reason why Officer will take on only four rivals -

Heavyweight Champ, Jump Start, Saarland, and Thunder Days - in the 1 1/16-mile Champagne.

Saarland will be attempting to jump from the maiden ranks to Grade 1 company, something A P Valentine did successfully last year. Jump Start is trying to bounce back from a fifth-place finish in the Hopeful after winning the Saratoga Special.

Officer's status as the leading juvenile colt in the country was

validated last weekend when Essence of Dubai won the Norfolk at Santa Anita.

In his previous start, Essence of Dubai was beaten 10 1/2 lengths by Officer in the Best Pal Stakes.

Trainer Eoin Harty said both Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham, who finished second in the Norfolk, would be pointed to the Breeders' Cup.

Essence of Dubai took advantage of the absence of Came Home, who was scratched the morning of the race because of filling in an ankle. Came Home, the unbeaten Hopeful winner, returned to the track on Tuesday and his connections hope to be able to train him up to the Breeders' Cup.

The Lane End's Futurity on Saturday could further validate Officer.

Kamsack may be the Futurity favorite based on his second-place finish to Officer in the Del Mar Futurity. Metatron, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, has finished second to both Officer and Came Home.

Siphonic, a half-brother to Charismatic, makes his first start against winners in the Futurity.

Publication, who won the Arlington-Washington Futurity, will bypass the Juvenile.

Warners became this week's casualty as he suffered sore shins following a recent workout and will be sidelined until next year.