Updated on 09/15/2011 1:36PM

Moment of truth for Officer

Email
Brian Jackson/Horsephotos
A professional and easy winner of his first five races, including the Grade 1 Champagne, Officer has faltered in his last two starts, the Breeders' Cup and Cal Cup Juveniles.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - He has gone from the biggest cinch in racing to the biggest question. Officer was an effortless winner of the first five starts of his career, but he has suffered defeats in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and, one week later, the California Cup Juvenile, leaving his reputation frayed, if not in tatters.

He will get one more chance this year to prove that all the fuss was worth it. On Tuesday morning, Officer's trainer, Bob Baffert, decided to run Officer this Saturday in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park. Baffert also had been considering a race restricted to California-breds the first week of Santa Anita's meeting, which begins Dec. 26.

"I want to see if he can get a mile a sixteenth around two turns," Baffert said from his barn at Santa Anita. * is just 1 for 3 at 1 1/16 miles, that lone win coming in the one-turn Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. "He's training well for it. If he can't get it now, I don't know that he'll ever get it."

Baffert said that David Flores would ride Officer for the first time. Flores replaces Gary Stevens, who rode Officer in the Nov. 3 Cal Cup after Victor Espinoza rode the colt in his first six races.

The presence of Officer makes an outstanding race all the better. The Futurity is expected to be headed by Siphonic (Jerry Bailey the rider), who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile while racing on the rail, which was the worst part of the track that day. Others expected for the race include Fonz's (Alex Solis), the Hollywood Prevue winner, as well as Brigadier Jones (Garrett Gomez), Labamta Babe (Kent Desormeaux), Mountain Rage (Eddie Delahoussaye), Publication (possibly Mike Smith), and Yougottawanna (Laffit Pincay Jr.), who upset Officer in the Cal Cup.

Four of the runners - Brigadier Jones, Labamta Babe, Publication, and Siphonic - need to be supplemented to the race for $20,000 each, which would swell the purse to more than $450,000.

Officer is owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation, which also owns the Hollywood Prevue runner-up, Popular. Baffert said he decided to run Officer instead of Popular because "he's a better horse than Popular." He said Flores worked both Officer and Mountain Rage over the weekend and chose to ride Officer in the race. Baffert and The Thoroughbred Corporation won last year's futurity with Point Given, who went on to win two Triple Crown races this year.

Baffert acknowledged that "there are a lot of unanswered questions" regarding Officer. "But I think they'll be answered Saturday."

"He's training great," Baffert said. "I haven't given up hope on this horse. I think he's a very good horse. He has to prove it on the track. We'll find out what we've got. We still don't know how far he wants to go."

UAE Derby a springtime option

Baffert said that if the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby appears beyond Officer's scope next spring, he might be tempted to go to Dubai in March for the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby, which is at 1 1/8 miles.

Officer dominated the 2-year-old division this summer at Del Mar, winning three stakes, including the Del Mar Futurity, by a combined 16 1/2 lengths. He then went to New York and won the Champagne Stakes by nearly four lengths to head into the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships as the day's biggest favorite. But he faded to finish fifth that day at Belmont Park at 3-5, then was wheeled back in one week for the Cal Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, which he lost after making an extended run from well behind the leaders.

"The Breeders' Cup, you have to throw that out," said Baffert, who believes Officer was compromised by the pace and his closeness to the rail. "He should have won the Cal Cup. He was too far back."

Asked if he now had any regrets over running Officer back in one week, Baffert said, "No."

"If he was knocked out by the Breeders' Cup, I wouldn't have done it," Baffert said. "I didn't do it because I was mad at the horse. I wanted him to get two-turn experience. Anybody who knows how to watch a race knows he should have won."

Officer has been the odds-on favorite in all seven of his starts, and has been 1-2 or shorter five times. But he is unlikely to be favored Saturday - "Siphonic will be the favorite, and he deserves to be," Baffert said - and probably will be the biggest price of his career.

"Maybe we can get 3-1," Baffert said.

*

* Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.

for entries.

Subscribers, to purchase Past Performances.

Non-subscribers, to purchase Past Performances.