09/09/2002 12:00AM

Baffert's fab five try Futurity

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DEL MAR, Calif. - This is a starting five that even the Lakers might envy. Trainer Bob Baffert has five runners in Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, and they very well may be the first five betting choices in the Grade 2 race that highlights closing day of the 43-day summer season.

Yes, it looks like a slam dunk. With speedsters like Bull Market and Icecoldbeeratreds, a pace presser like Friendly Mike, a stalker like Kafwain, and a late runner in Chief Planner, Baffert has the seven-furlong race surrounded. Just three others entered the Futurity, two - Gentlemen's Club and Total Advantage - only because an allowance race their trainers desired did not get a sufficient number of entries.

Also in the race is Outta Here, who is still a maiden after three starts, but was third to the Baffert pair of Kafwain and Chief Planner in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 21. Outta Here's trainer, William Currin, gets a kick out of the David vs. Goliath comparisons between him and Baffert.

"I've got my slingshot," Currin said. "I'm going to aim it very carefully."

Currin, a native of North Carolina, ought to know you can't go hunting bears with a slingshot. Baffert brings overwhelming credentials into the Futurity. He has won this race six consecutive years, and a victory this year would be a fitting climax to a season in which Baffert will win his sixth straight training title at this track.

Bull Market could be a slight favorite over Kafwain. Bull Market won his lone start on Del Mar's opening day, and though he missed a potential start three weeks ago because of a minor cough, he has come back to work strongly since.

Kafwain came from just off the pace to win the Best Pal, his second win in four starts. Nevertheless, he has had a history of running well and then below par. He will need to end that pattern in order to win.

Icecoldbeeratreds was the odds-on favorite in the Best Pal, but faded to fifth after setting the pace. He won his first two starts going gate to wire, but the Best Pal was the farthest distance he has raced, and the Futurity is another 110 yards.

Outta Here, who beat Chief Planner when finishing second in the Hollywood Juvenile, has come within hailing distance of this circuit's best 2-year-olds, even though he is winless.

"He's coming up to it as good as I can get him," Currin said. "There's not a horse I would duck, including Baffert's army of five."

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