Officer, winning the Del Mar Futurity.\

Officer, winning the Del Mar Futurity.\


Officer Does About Face: He's Back in the Champagne

Trainer Bob Baffert reversed fields again on Friday with his unbeaten 2-year-old colt Officer, saying the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) winner will be going to New York for the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 6. Only two days earlier, Baffert said Officer would stay in California for the Sept. 29 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita rather than run in the Champagne as previously announced.

Officer, a California-bred son of Bertrando, is owned by The Thoroughbred Corp. of Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed Salman. Baffert said Salman convinced him to make the latest change.

"The prince gave me two reasons that we should go to New York," Baffert said. "This is a special horse and the prince thinks he should run in a grade I race. The Norfolk should be grade I but it isn't. More important, he wants the fans in New York to have a chance to see Officer run."

On Wednesday, Baffert said he preferred having four weeks between races for his 2-year-olds going to the World Thoroughbred Championships. Officer is the early favorite for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), a 1 1/16-mile race run around one turn--the same distance as the Champagne.

Officer has won his first four starts, including three stakes, by a combined 22 1/2 lengths. Baffert said travel arrangements were not confirmed but that he expected to ship the colt to New York a few days before the Champagne.

Habibti, an unbeaten filly also owned by the Thoroughbred Corp., will remain in California and run in the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 30, Baffert said on Friday.