Updated on 09/15/2011 1:58PM

New phenom on horizon

Michael J. Marten
Officer, with exercise rider Dana Barnes, will be heavily favored in the the Del Mar Futurity, a race Bob Baffert has won the last five years.

DEL MAR, Calif. - They wear the same green-and-white colors in the afternoon and stay near one another the rest of the day in their barn at Del Mar. And even though Officer has been as brilliant as a 2-year-old as Point Given was dominating at age 3, it would be oversimplifying to say that Officer will now replace Point Given for trainer Bob Baffert and Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation.

It is hard to describe just how deeply Baffert and his employees grew to love Point Given or how deeply they were affected by his retirement. Over the weekend, Point Given's jockey, Gary Stevens, spent a quiet moment one morning with Point Given. When Baffert approached the rider, who was standing at Point Given's stall, he found Stevens with tears running down his face.

Wednesday afternoon at Del Mar, however, the catharsis will be completed. Early in the day, Point Given is scheduled to be paraded in the paddock and then in front of the stands. Later in the day, Officer will start as a prohibitive favorite in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, highlight of this track's closing-day program.

"It's like Point Given will be passing the baton to him. 'Here kid, don't mess it up,' " Baffert said.

Seven horses were entered in the Futurity, the seventh race on a 10-race card. There are a pair of coupled entries. Officer and Ecstatic will represent Baffert and The Thoroughbred Corp. Historic Speech, who is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, and Striking Song, who is trained by Bob Hess Jr., are also an entry, since both colts are owned by the Fog City Stable of Bill Bianco and David Shimmon.

All eyes, however, will be on Officer, the most exciting 2-year-old in Southern California this summer. He has won all three of his starts - two at Del Mar, including the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes - by a combined 21 lengths. His fleet running style is reminiscent of Flame Thrower, who won the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity last year for Baffert. A victory by Officer would be the sixth consecutive in this race for Baffert.

Officer has been the odds-on favorite in all of his races and should be again on Wednesday. He has continued to train strongly since the Best Pal.

"Just fantastic," Baffert said, sounding genuinely awestruck. "He is just something else. I love watching him train. He's so dynamic. A lot of horses don't transfer that to the afternoon, but he does."

Officer's assignment was made easier when Came Home, the unbeaten winner of the Hollywood Juvenile, was sent to Saratoga for last weekend's Hopeful Stakes, which Came Home won by two lengths. The nation's two highest-ranked 2-year-olds will have to wait for another day to meet.

Four of Officer's rivals are coming off victories, and one is nearly as accomplished. Expected Program, like Officer, is unbeaten in three starts. He, however, has not raced since capturing the Haggin Stakes on June 17 at Hollywood Park.

Kamsack was a powerful winner against maidens in his lone start on July 28. He has not raced since then, with trainer Christopher Paasch electing to bring Kamsack into this race fresh. Kamsack has turned in a series of sharp workouts, including a five-furlong move in 58.40 seconds on Aug. 22 that was the best of 59 at the distance that morning.

Historic Speech, third to Ecstatic in his debut, returned to beat maidens in his second start on Aug. 11. He, however, is stuck on the rail, which has been a detriment in sprints all meeting.

Ecstatic is unbeaten in two starts, but was all out to beat an entry-level allowance field in his second start.

Metatron tried to run with Officer in the Best Pal but could not keep up and was beaten by seven lengths. He broke from the rail that day, which limited his options. He seems far more effective when not rushed early.

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