08/12/2004 11:00PM

Baffert colts have bigger goal


DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert insists that Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar is not the summer goal for , both of whom he expects will play important roles in the top 2-year-old races in the fall.

"They're both doing fantastic," Baffert said. "But this isn't their career race."

Regardless, Roman Ruler, expected to be favored, and Actxecutive can enhance their growing reputations in the Grade 2 Best Pal, run over 6 1/2 furlongs. The race drew five entrants, none of whom are stakes winners.

The field includes Things Happen, a speedy maiden winner at Hollywood Park; Wetherly, a maiden winner over this track; and Slewsbag, a maiden after three starts.

The missing contestant is Chandtrue, who swept the three stakes for 2-year-olds at Hollywood Park during the spring and summer. Trainer Bob Hess Jr. said Chandtrue will start in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 8, which is also a goal for many of the Best Pal entrants.

Roman Ruler was expected to start in the Hollywood Juvenile, but missed the race because of an abscess in a front foot. Actxecutive started and set the early pace, but finished second to Chandtrue by a half-length.

Following that race, Baffert said he would not start Actxecutive and Roman Ruler in the same race and would send Actxecutive to Saratoga for the Hopeful. He changed his mind last week.

"I don't want to run him there because of all the bad weather they've had," he said.

The Baffert pair have different running styles. Actxecutive figures to lead, while Roman Ruler's best chance may be from off the pace.

"He'll be right there," Baffert said of Actxecutive.

Actxecutive will face an early challenge from Things Happen, who beat maidens by five lengths at Hollywood Park on July 15. Things Happen is drawn outside, which will give jockey Martin Pedroza an ideal spot to watch the race develop.

"It's a perfect post," trainer Marty Jones said. "He's kind of built like a sprinter, but we're sort of feeling out how good he is."

Wetherly is hard to place. He led through a maiden race at Del Mar on July 24 but did not set fast fractions in his four-length win.