08/28/2001 11:00PM

Officer scares pair into Hopeful

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N. Y. - Trainer Bob Baffert does not have a horse in Saturday's $200,000 Hopeful Stakes, but he still is having an effect on the race. The imposing presence of the undefeated Baffert-trained Officer in Wednesday's Del Mar Futurity is the main reason two other California-based juveniles, Came Home and Roman Dancer, have been flown cross-country for the Grade 1 Hopeful.

A third Southern Californian, Godolphin Stable's Essence of Dubai., did not make the flight east after a last-minute decision by trainer Eoin Harty.

Came Home and Roman Dancer arrived on the same flight Tuesday, accompanied by their trainers, Paco Gonzalez and Christopher Paasch. Both trainers are optimistic their colts will give a good account in the Hopeful against an East Coast contingent headed by Mayakovsky and Jump Start.

"The boss made the decision to come here," said Gonzalez, referring to Came Home's owners, Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan. "And I think it was a pretty good decision. Officer is a very, very good horse. Although, don't get me wrong, there are some pretty nice-looking 2-year-olds running in the Hopeful, including the one on the plane with us."

Came Home was the early-season 2-year-old star on the West Coast. A son of Gone West, Came Home won his debut by eight lengths at Hollywood Park on June 3 and returned six weeks later and easily captured the Hollywood Juvenile Championship by four lengths, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

"My horse has run two beautiful races," said Gonzalez at the stakes barn Wednesday morning. "I am a bit concerned about him having to run over this surface, but if we had stayed home for the Del Mar Futurity he'd have been facing the same problem, since I'm stabled at Santa Anita."

Roman Dancer won his only start, surviving an early pace battle and edging off to a two-length maiden victory at Del Mar on Aug. 4.

"Trying to avoid Officer was one reason I decided to bring this horse here for the Hopeful," said Paasch, who trains Roman Dancer for owners Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez. "The second is that I believe I have a better colt for that assignment, Kamsack, who will run against Officer in the Del Mar Futurity."

Paasch purchased Roman Dancer, a New York-bred, for $150,000 at the February Fasig-Tipton sales at Calder. He expects the colt to improve off his debut.

"He was really a work or two short for that race, so he should move forward," said Paasch. "I think his speed will really surprise everybody."

Essence of Dubai, a $2.3 million son of Pulpit who finished third behind Officer in Del Mar's Best Pal, wasn't deemed ready for the Hopeful.

"When Paco and Chris decided to make the trip, I felt the Hopeful suddenly became too tough," said trainer Harty. "Especially for a horse coming off a bad race. My colt just didn't show enough at the end of the Best Pal to warrant putting him on a plane and flying him cross country to run in that spot. Originally I thought the only horse we had to be concerned about was [Mayakovsky]."

Harty said the options for Essence of Dubai include the Del Mar Futurity, the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, or the Belmont Futurity.

Bienamado injured in Million

Gonzalez also reported that Bienamado, who finished seventh as the favorite in the Arlington Million, popped a splint in the race and will be sidelined indefinitely.

"I'll just have to wait and see how it cools out before deciding what's next," said Gonzalez. "He pulled a muscle in the Million last year and that kept us out of the Breeders' Cup. I just hope this problem won't cost us too much time and force us to miss the Cup against this year."

Meche's exclamation point

For jockey Donnie Meche, Friday's Grade 1 Spinaway could put an exclamation point on what has already been a successful first season at Saratoga.

Meche will ride the odds-on favorite Cashier's Dream in the Spinaway for his main man, trainer Steve Asmussen.

"She's an unbelievable filly," Meche said of Cashier's Dream, aboard whom he won Churchill's Grade 3 Debutante and finished second, beaten a neck by You, in the Adirondack. "I still can't believe we got beat the last time. When I heard the other horse [You] coming, I smooched to my filly and I thought the whole way down the stretch we had her."

Meche won his seventh race of the meet on Wednesday, aboard the promising Asmussen-trained 2-year-old filly Miss Indiana. Meche has exceeded his own expectations in his first summer at Saratoga.

"I would have been happy to win five for the meet considering the competition, and I've already exceeded that goal," said Meche. "I love it here. There is no other place to be. And if you can win races here you can win anywhere."

Meche is planning to ride at Belmont briefly when this meet ends before heading to Keeneland and Churchill Downs during the fall.

Touch Tone ready for Philly

Touch Tone on Wednesday put the finishing touches on his preparations for Monday's Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park, breezing five furlongs in 59.65 seconds over the main track here. In his last start, Touch Tone dropped a half-length decision to Point Given in the Haskell Invitational.

Other horses of note to work Wednesday were Alannan (half-mile in 48.02) and Big E.E. (three-eighths in 35.85), who both will run in Saturday's $250,000 Forego Handicap Express Tour (seven furlongs in 1:27.45) and King Cugat (half-mile in 49.60) were also on the tab.

King Cugat is expected to make his next start in the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont, while Express Tour is pointing to the Jerome there.

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