01/22/2009 12:00AM

High price tag worthwhile

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When the field turned for home in the Holiday Cheer Stakes, and Officer Rocket was nowhere to be found, trainer Mike Maker said he "was kind of praying we could maybe just get second."

Then all sorts of changes began to unfold in that Dec. 27 sprint at Turfway Park. The dueling leaders, Rouse the Cat and Golden Country, began to get tired, while Officer Rocket - as far back as ninth with about a quarter-mile to run - began surging along the rail.

"The next thing you know, he's winning," said Maker.

Maker is hoping Officer Rocket can deliver a similar result Saturday when the 5-year-old horse returns to action in the $50,000 Forego Stakes at Turfway. Officer Rocket will start from the inside post in a field of eight entered in the 6 1/2-furlong race for older horses.

Maker, the former longtime D. Wayne Lukas assistant who currently has strings of horses in Florida, New York, and Kentucky, claimed Officer Rocket on behalf of his main clients, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, toward the end of the Churchill Downs fall meet. The claiming price was a steep $80,000, so Maker was somewhat relieved the horse returned immediate dividends by capturing the Holiday Cheer in his first start under new silks.

"That was the whole idea behind claiming him, to run him in stakes at Turfway, and so far it's working," said Maker, who has been primarily in Florida in recent weeks but will be on hand Saturday at Turfway, where 7 of his first 14 starters at the winter-spring meet were winners.

Maker said Officer Rocket could remain at Turfway for the Dust Commander on Feb. 14 "or maybe we'll send him to Florida or New York."

Victor Lebron has the mount on Officer Rocket, the likely favorite in a lineup that also includes Golden Country, the third-place finisher in the Holiday Cheer; Success Success, a late-running gelding back from his main winter base, the Fair Grounds; and Funky Pirate, an 18-time winner with an outstanding 4-3-1 record from just 8 career starts at Turfway.

The Forego, named for the great gelding of the mid-1970s, is carded as the 10th of 12 races. The lone allowance of the program, a $24,000 route for fillies and mares, directly follows as the 11th.