Updated on 09/15/2011 1:40PM

Officer towers over Cal-bred field


DEL MAR, Calif. - Officer is the fastest 2-year-old in trainer Bob Baffert's barn, a colt good enough to run against the best juveniles on the grounds. But since Officer is a California-bred, Baffert does not have to run him against open company just yet, because Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes for comes up at just the right time.

As a result, Officer gets to make his stakes debut against a group of California-breds who are not nearly as highly regarded. He should be an odds-on favorite in the 5 1/2-furlong race, which opens Week Two at Del Mar.

Eight are entered in the Graduation, but there are only seven betting interests, because the Jerry Dutton-trained pair of Altamont Pass and Bid N Ask are coupled.

Officer was a dazzling winner of his debut on July 6 at Hollywood Park. He swooped outside the leaders on the turn, then drew away powerfully under Victor Espinoza to win by six lengths while earning a sharp Beyer Speed Figure of 88.

"He ran like we thought he would, like we were hoping he would," Baffert said Monday morning at his Del Mar barn. "He showed awesome ability in the morning. Sometimes they don't show it in the afternoon, but he did."

The first open stakes for 2-year-old males here this summer is the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 15. Baffert is using the Graduation as an intermediate stop for Officer. Should he run strongly in both the Graduation and Best Pal, Baffert said he could run Officer in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 5, or go to Saratoga for the Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 1.

Officer, a son of Bertrando, was purchased for $700,000 by Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation at the Barrett's 2-year-old-in-training sale in March. He is a sleek, dark bay, with a star high on his forehead and dollops of white on both his left front and right hind ankles.

"He had worked real well at Barrett's," Baffert said. "He's a good horse. He's fast, he's got a great mind, and he's a beautiful mover. He's pretty brilliant, but he can sit off the pace."

Officer breaks from post 2. Just to his inside is Sharper Too, who comes off a two-length victory against California-bred maidens and should be the second choice in the wagering. The improving Crown the King, a recent purchase by trainer Darrell Vienna for owner David Milch, is still a maiden, but finished second to Officer last time out.

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