03/13/2007 11:00PM

Officer Rocket draws right in the middle


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - It appears everything is coming together for Officer Rocket heading into the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, right down to his draw of post 6 in the nine-horse field for Saturday. Entries for the 1 1/16-mile race were taken on Wednesday.

Officer Rocket has the look of an improving horse since finishing a fast-closing, troubled second in his last start, the $250,000 Southwest Stakes. For the Rebel, the hope was that he would draw "somewhere in the middle," his trainer, Bob Holthus, said during entries Wednesday. "Somewhere where he can maybe save some ground around the first turn, drop in, and hopefully somebody will go on."

There is a nice amount of speed situated to Officer Rocket's inside. Flying First Class, a six-furlong maiden winner last out with a Beyer Figure of 107, will break from post 2 under Edgar Prado. In addition, Teuflesberg, who wired the field in the Southwest, drew post 4, the same gate he broke from in the Southwest. He will be ridden by Stewart Elliott. Curlin, who won his maiden at seven furlongs last out with a Beyer of 101, will break from post 8 under Robby Albarado.

Officer Rocket will be ridden by Luis Quinonez. He shows two strong works since the Southwest, his latest a five-furlong move in 1:00.40 here last Saturday.

"He's doing well," said Holthus, who trains Officer Rocket for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations. "He's continued to mature since his last start, and I hope he can move forward a little more."

Officer Rocket was the dead-heat winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity last September. In the Southwest, he was blocked at the three-eighths pole, then came running in the one-mile race.

The complete field from the rail with riders is: Wannabeinclued, Joe Johnson; Flying First Class; Sumac, Tim Doocy; Teuflesberg; U D Ghetto, Terry Thompson; Officer Rocket; Xchanger, John Jacinto; Curlin; and Going Ballistic, Cliff Berry.

Saturday's forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 67. The Rebel has a scheduled post of 6:04 p.m. Central. It will be telecast live on ESPN.