HOT SPRINGS, AR (OAKLAWN) - Trainer Lynn Whiting went to plan B and it worked out perfectly as his once Derby hopeful Officer Alex got up late to win Saturday's $75,000 Bachelor Stakes before a crowd of 22,361.
Officer Alex tried his hand unsuccessfully in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) Stakes, part of Oaklawn's 3-year-old series leading to the Arkansas Derby, but looks well suited for sprint races after completing the six furlong race in 1:10 4/5 over a fast track.
Unhurried early, Officer Alex settled into fifth place as Bobcat Jim assumed the early lead and proceeded to set quick fractions of 21 2/5 and 45 for the first half mile. At the top of the stretch, the leader looked like an easy winner, but Officer Alex, who had moved into third, was set down for the drive by jockey Alex Birzer and was able to put his nose in front at the wire. Stormy Holiday closed from last to get third. Tour Guide, the 9-5 favorite, faded to eighth.
"He had bad luck in the Smarty Jones and that (Bob) Baffert horse (Super Ninety Nine) was just too tough for us in the Southwest," said Whiting. "That made us switch back to sprinting. We'll go to Churchill now and see what's next. There are a lot of options. He's a Pennsylvania bred, so Ben Franklin may be calling."
"Lynn told me in the paddock how he thought the race would go and it went exactly that way," added Birzer. "It worked out perfectly. He rolled up to the leader pretty easy, but that horse dug back in. He's a smart horse and getting better."
Officer Alex, by Officer, improved his record to four wins from seven starts and has now earned $151,572 for owners Winning Horses Stable and Choctaw Racing Stable. He returned $12.20, $5.60 and $5 at odds of 5-1.
Live racing resumes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and the nine-race card features the $60,000 Arkansas Breeders' Stakes Open Division. After Sunday, there are just four more days of live racing. The Racing Festival of the South begins Wednesday, April 10 with the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) and culminates April 13, closing day, with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).