07/29/2002 12:00AM

Expression could upset Graduation


DEL MAR, Calif. - Between them, trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas have won nine of the last 19 runnings of the Del Mar Futurity. When it comes to 2-year-olds at Del Mar, first Lukas, and now Baffert, have been the kings.

So it is completely understandable why trainer Jean-Pierre Dupuis said Monday morning he felt a little intimidated going up against runners from both Baffert and Lukas in Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, but Dupuis has a promising runner in his own right in Expression, who could pull a mild upset in the 5 1/2-furlong race.

After finishing third against California-breds in his debut, Expression improved sharply in his second start at Hollywood Park, beating an open group of 2-year-olds, including Crowned Dancer, who later captured the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Expression is back in against California-breds in the Graduation, but he has not raced in 2 1/2 months because of a bout with colic.

"He had to go to the hospital, but they did not have to open him up," Dupuis said at his Del Mar barn on Monday morning. "They kept him there three or four days."

The medical emergency scrapped the rest of the Hollywood meet. Instead, Dupuis pointed Expression for the Graduation. He has had four workouts in the past three weeks.

"He's fit. He's doing well," Dupuis said. "But I don't think I can beat Baffert or Lukas. I have to beat the tough guys."

Baffert has two runners, Icecoldbeeratreds, who beat Expression when both made their debuts, and Martinblestme, who beat a soft field of maiden claimers in his lone start. Icecoldbeeratreds was a three-length winner of his lone start, a race in which Expression started sluggishly before rallying late.

Lukas has the likely favorite in Jury Box, who crushed maidens at Hollywood Park on June 30, winning by 11 lengths. He is part of a small string Lukas has kept on the West Coast this summer with assistant Greg Falk. Most of Lukas's better runners are at Saratoga.

Jury Box has an edge on experience compared to his primary rivals. He has raced four times, at four different tracks, and has yet to finish out of the money. His victory at Hollywood Park was his first start with Lasix, and his first with jockey Mike Smith, who has gotten off to a strong start at Del Mar.

Oberwald, a disappointing fifth in the Hollywood Juvenile on July 20, will try to make amends. He won the Haggin before that, but he is coming back on just 11 days' rest.

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