08/14/2001 11:00PM

Officer takes charge in Best Pal

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Officer turned Wednesday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes into a public workout, winning his graded stakes debut by seven lengths in an effortless performance.

Officer beat two opponents, leaving Metatron behind at the top of the stretch and Essence of Dubai on the final turn. Two others were scratched. Ecstatic was withdrawn on Wednesday morning, while Werblin was scratched with two

minutes to post after jockey Chris McCarron reported that the colt "didn't feel right" according to trainer Eduardo Inda.

Officer ($3) set a stakes record of 1:15.08 for 6 1/2 furlongs and was never asked for a serious effort by jockey Victor Espinoza.

"He showed today he's in another league," trainer Bob Baffert said. "We don't know how good he is. He won like he did last time, he was just cruising."

Officer was three-wide on the backstretch, racing within a length of Metatron through an opening quarter-mile in 22.24 seconds. Officer took the lead on the final turn, through a half-mile in 44.37 seconds, and hit the six-furlong

mark in 1:08.43.

Metatron finished second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Essence of Dubai.

Officer's victory established him as the favorite for the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 5. He is unbeaten in three starts, having won a maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 6 and the Graduation Stakes for California-breds on July 25.