04/07/2002 12:00AM

Officer victorious in Zany Tactics

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ARCADIA, Calif. - In a performance reminiscent of his eye-catching wins last summer and fall, Officer scored an easy win in Sunday's $106,800 Zany Tactics Stakes at Santa Anita.

The winner of the 2001 Del Mar Futurity and Champagne Stakes, Officer outclassed five other California-bred 3-year-olds in the Zany Tactics to score his fifth career stakes win. After the race, trainer Bob Baffert mentioned the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 20 as a possible goal for Officer. Another option is the Preakness Stakes on May 18.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Officer circled the field on the turn, took the lead in early stretch and won by six lengths. He was essentially galloping through the final furlong, finishing 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:15.71.

"Officer is back," Baffert said. "We knew he'd run well. I wasn't going to run him unless he was going super."

For the record, Hot War finished second, three lengths in front of 39-1 Duddly Doo Run, the longest shot in the field. Menacing Dennis finished fourth, followed by Flying Supercon and McManus.

Flying Supercon, the winner of the Palo Verde Handicap at Turf Paradise in February, was the only other stakes winner in the field aside from Officer.

Owned by Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp., Officer has won 6 of 9 starts and $804,090. The Zany Tactics was his first victory since the Champagne and ended a three-race losing streak that included a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a second in the California Cup Juvenile and a third in the Hollywood Futurity last December.

Officer ($2.60) was fifth on the backstretch, stalking the pace of McManus through an opening quarter mile in 21.73 seconds. Espinoza urged Officer at the end of the backstretch and took the lead by the middle of the turn.

"He did it so easy," Espinoza said. "I wanted to go around because I was the favorite. I didn't want to take any chances. He's my favorite horse."

Officer reached a half-mile in 44.56 seconds and six furlongs in 1:08.75. By then, Espinoza was no longer urging his mount.

"He loves to make that move," Baffert said of the rally on the turn. "This is where he goes to another level. That's the Officer I know."