Updated on 09/15/2011 1:22PM

Officer: Will he or won't he?


ARCADIA, Calif. - After a win in the Champagne Stakes and a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont last weekend, Officer returns to his California roots Saturday when he starts in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Or, he may never leave trainer Bob Baffert's barn.

As of Thursday, Officer was an intended runner, but he could be withdrawn as late as an hour before Saturday's race without reason, a privilege granted to stakes entrants in California. On Thursday, Baffert was in a cantankerous mood when asked about the colt's status.

"I'm not talking about him anymore," Baffert said. "If I lead him up there, he's doing good. That's the bottom line."

If he runs, Officer will be a heavy favorite in the Juvenile, one of 10 races on the 12th California Cup program. Like Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park in April, the California Cup showcases the work of state breeders with seven stakes and three starter handicaps.

The richest race of the program, which begins at noon, is the $250,000 California Cup Classic over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, the ninth race.

Tiznow, the California-bred who last week became the first two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, is not running, but he will be paraded in the walking ring before the Cal Cup Classic.

On the racetrack, there are two millionaires participating: Men's Exclusive starts as a top contender in the Sprint, and Native Desert is the expected favorite in the Mile, which is run on turf.

For bettors nationwide, there is a $1 million guaranteed pick six pool on races five through 10.

Officer is the most familiar name among the entrants, and will have little excuse to lose against the easiest field he has faced in three months.

He faces a field that has quantity over quality. The California Cup Juvenile drew 14 entrants and is Officer's first start against state-breds since he won the Graduation Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar by eight lengths on July 25.

Following that race, he won the Grade 3 Best Pal, the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, and the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, rising to the top of the American 2-year-old division.

In the Juvenile, where he was an odds-on favorite, Officer dueled for the lead with Came Home before fading in the final furlong to finish 5 1/4 lengths behind the Irish import Johannesburg.

Baffert has implemented several changes for the California Cup Juvenile.

Jockey Gary Stevens replaced Victor Espinoza and Officer will not be wearing blinkers for the first time in his career

The Juvenile will be Officer's first start around two turns; races over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park are run around one turn.

The 13 juveniles facing Officer features four stakes winners in California, none of whom have started in graded stakes.

The entry of Yougottawanna and Surprized will be the second choice behind Officer, or a heavy favorite if he does not run. Yougottwanna won the Pinjara Stakes at Santa Anita and was second in the I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar, a sprint for statebreds.

Surprized, who previously ran under the name Chingasos, has won two sprint stakes for Cal-breds - the Everett Nevin Stakes over five furlongs at Pleasanton and the Jess Cloud Memorial Stakes at the Big Fresno Fair.

Both are trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

The Juvenile will be Surprized's first start beyond six furlongs, and should show whether he is a late-running sprinter or can be effective around two turns. His sire, Prized, had little trouble with longer trips, having won the 1989 Breeders' Cup Turf.

"We think Yougottawana is a good distance candidate, but he won on turf," Hollendorfer said. "We think Surprized can get a distance, too. We want to find out if he can stretch out. The indications are that he can."

The other two stakes winners are longshots.

The front-running Rainman's Request drew the rail. He won the Gateway to Glory Stakes at 30-1 at Fairplex Park on Sept. 20 but was dismissed at 17-1 in the Pinjara Stakes on Oct. 12 and ran like it, finishing sixth in his turf debut.

Debonair Joe won the Beau Brummel Stakes and was later placed in the Gateway to Glory and Jess Cloud Stakes.

None of them will offer significant resistance to Officer if he runs back to his summertime or early autumn races.