He was 75 cents to the dollar in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and could be as high as 3-1 in the Hollywood Futurity. A victory by Officer on Saturday would no doubt make him a major candidate for Overlay of the Year. Although it will be no easy task knocking off Siphonic, Officer still looks to be one of the most appetizing propositions we've seen in a while.
The philosophy here is it's better to ride the bandwagon a little longer than jump off too soon. And the exodus from the Officer bandwagon following the Breeders' Cup and Cal Cup has made the ride all the more comfortable.
The main reason for staying aboard is simple: we still feel the son of Bertrando is an exceptional colt, and we'll take Bob Baffert's word for it that he has done very well since his seemingly ignominious defeat against Cal-breds a week after the Juvenile.
The bottom line is that both of Officer's defeats can be accounted for. First off, his first five career starts simply were too easy, and didn't prepare him for a tough fight against a top-class colt in Came Home through fast fractions. In addition, he was in the worst possible position, going head and head on the rail, and running very counter-productive to his normal style. Remember, he still had the lead after turning for home, and it was interesting that he lost the lead immediately after feeling the whip for the first time. He would also have the lead in the Cal Cup Juvenile before backing up immediately after being hit with the whip. This is a horse who had gotten into the habit of settling nicely behind horses and cruising by the leaders at will. He's now more battle-hardened and should be better prepared to knuckle down and fight if he has to.
As for the Cal Cup, we actually were extremely impressed with his race, considering he was running back in a week after traveling 12,000 miles in less than a month. That's a lot for a young horse. Cal-breds or no Cal-breds, the move he made from 11th to 1st, while rattling off :23 and change quarters was the closest thing we've seen to Arazi. And Arazi wasn't coming off a hard race the week before. Had he sustained that move, it would have been remarkable, and who knows how good the horse (Yougottawanna) is who beat him?
We still can't forget the sight of Officer in the paddock before the Champagne. That was as good as we've seen a horse look -- coat-wise and in overall appearance -- in a long time. It's altogether possible that Officer has pretty much emptied his cylinders for this year, but if Baffert, who would have had a good shot with Popular, feels he is ready for a big effort, then everything points to Officer being very live on Saturday. How can you not like a horse who can bounce back and work five furlongs in :58 flat, then turn in a solid mile work in 1:37 1/5 a week later and six furlongs in 1:12 eight days after that? Make no mistake, this is one tough, brilliant, and professional colt. If he runs poorly, you can always jump off the bandwagon or regroup for next year. But if he wins at 3-1, think of all the extra Christmas presents you'll be able to buy. Looking to the future, we imagine that a good, fast-closing second to Siphonic wouldn't upset Baffert too much.
Siphonic looks as solid a Kentucky Derby prospect as anyone out there. We love the fact that a class horse like Harlan's Holiday sandwiched stakes victories in the Cradle Stakes and Iroquois Stakes around a six-length drubbing to Siphonic in the Breeders' Futurity. This is a very talented colt, who ran an awesome race in the Breeders' Futurity and a big race in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and we acknowlege it's going to take a huge effort to beat him.
No one really knows how good Fonz's is after his gutsy victory off a layoff in the Prevue Stakes. He really had to bear down to beat a good horse in Popular. Publication's fast-closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile showed his victory in the Arlington Futurity was legit. And Bobby Frankel is going to be dangerous with the improving Labamta Babe, third in the Prevue. Baffert also will saddle Mountain Rage, who is coming off a victory in the Generous Stakes on turf. Brigadier Jones is an English import who broke his maiden at Southwell in his last start. Finally, there is the aforementioned Yougottawanna who upset Officer in the Cal Cup.