Turf: Compliance Officer steps up

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Bruce Brown ran sideways, snapping his fingers, yelling, winding up a mile from the clubhouse big screen. Jennie Brown stood her ground and shrieked.

Compliance Officer won the West Point Thursday. Bruce Brown whipped around to find his wife and brother-in-law Tommy Terrill. Jennie Brown continued to shriek, a high-pitched scream that continued long after Tom Durkin’s call had finished and Bruce Brown had returned to reality.

“I’m a big fan,” she said, apologizing.

No need.  

Compliance Officer earned his third consecutive victory since Brown claimed him for LaMarca Stable, drawing off to win the New York-bred stakes by 1 3/4-lengths over Karakorum Legend and Pocket Cowboys.

Alex Solis guided Compliance Officer off the rail and into the sweet spot, fourth and outside as Lubash took the field through a first quarter in 25.04 and a half in 50.35. Compliance Officer settled into rhythm as second-choice Pocket Cowboys tried to recover from a clumsy break and favorite Icabad Crane rated near the back. Leaving the backside, Solis asked Compliance Officer to move, hemming in Karakorum Legend and aiming at Writingonthewall and Lubash. Compliance Officer roared past the leaders at the eighth pole and accelerated to the wire. Karakorum Legend closed to be second with Pocket Cowboys rallying belatedly to be third. Compliance Officer finished 1 1/16 miles over good turf in 1:44.40.

Compliance Officer won once from seven starts last year for Terri Pompay, picking up a first level allowance against open company here last summer. Rested for the winter, Compliance Officer returned in a state-bred optional claimer. Risked for a claiming tag for the third consecutive time, Compliance Officer finished fourth and stayed at Belmont Park.

“I didn’t have the West Point in mind but I realized that New York-breds is the place to be,” owner Tom LaMarca said. “I thought he would be a great claim at the beginning of the year, frankly I really wanted him as a sprinter.”

Brown shortened up the son of Officer, winning a 6 furlong state-bred optional claimer June 16 and another one, going 7 furlongs July 9. Brown brought Compliance Officer to Saratoga with a choice – shorten him up to 5 1/2 furlongs or stretch him two turns in the West Point.

“We had other opportunities but we I told Bruce, ‘let’s go for the gusto,’ ” LaMarca said. “It’s a huge thrill and quite an accomplishment for both Bruce and I, for picking out the right horse and for Bruce to improve him to the point of winning a stake like this. Compliments to the trainer, the jockey and most of all the horse.”

Compliance Officer improved his record to seven wins from 20 career starts, winning his first stakes in his first attempt. Brown won an overnight stakes last year, but this was his first real Saratoga stakes win.

“It’s great, to win it here, I’m New York year-round so to win a New York-bred stake at Saratoga, it doesn’t get any better,” Brown said. “We claimed him trying to win some optional allowance races. He really breezed good up here on the grass, it was sneaky good, he went real, real slow, went five eighths in 1:02, but came home in 22 flat, just awesome, just like today.”

LaMarca and Brown originally teamed up in the winter of 2008-09 with New York-bred filly Won Great Classic. She won three races for the duo before being claimed for $25,000 Monday. You win some, you lose some.

“Mr. LaMarca has given me a good shot with claiming horses, he’s always game, he’s a big boy, he’ll step up and when we mess up, he doesn’t take his ball and go home,” Brown said. “He’s pretty involved, he’ll give me a bunch of horses and I’ll watch the replays. I knew he was a pretty sound horse, it seemed like they got him over there a lot and I liked that he was always stabled in New Jersey and had to ship every time, a lot of times that’s a big advantage when you don’t have to ship to run.”

Brown came to Saratoga for the first time with Tale Of The Cat for John Forbes (see page 30) and ran Tim Hills’ barn for many years before going out on his own, winning his first race in 2008. He knows the history of Saratoga.

“I won a little overnight stakes last year but this is my biggest win here, it’s a race with a lot of history,” Brown said. “I was thinking we would bring him up here and run him five and a half, I thought against the right horses, he’d be fine going five and a half, but then I looked at the nominations and it looked like a good time to try.”