09/06/2002 11:00PM

Three try Baffert in Futurity

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DEL MAR, Calif. - There are likely to be only three opponents facing trainer Bob Baffert's five starters in Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity.

Only Outta Here, a stakes-placed maiden, and maiden race winners Gentlemen's Club and Total Advantage will attempt to dethrone Baffert, who is seeking his seventh consecutive win in the seven-furlong Futurity.

Trainer Caesar Dominguez said on Saturday that Pine for Java will bypass the Futurity in favor of the $50,000 Beau Brummel Stakes for colts and geldings over 6 1/2 furlongs at Fairplex Park on Sept. 17. Pine for Java finished second to the Baffert-trained Vindication in an allowance race on Aug. 22.

"I'd rather wait," Dominguez said.

Baffert will start Bull Market, Chief Planner, Friendly Mike, Icecoldbeeratreds, and Kafwain. Kafwain and Chief Planner were the first two finishers of the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 21, a race in which Outta Here finished third. In the Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July, Outta Here finished second to Crowned Dancer, who is out for the year.

Icecoldbeeratreds, the expected pacesetter, won the $125,000 Graduation Stakes for statebreds on July 31.

Joey Franco targets Cal Cup Classic

Joey Franco inherited the role of top contender in the $250,000 California Cup Classic later this year with his victory in Friday's $92,750 El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds.

A promising 3-year-old in the spring, Joey Franco has returned from a leg injury to win consecutive starts this summer. The El Cajon, restricted to nonwinners of a first-place purse $60,000 at a mile or over this year, was Joey Franco's first stakes win.

"He was 10 lengths better than the last time," said winning jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Fourth early, Joey Franco rallied wide on the final turn and was up to catch pacesetter Taste of Paradise in the final strides and win by a head. Paxtecum rallied from last to finish a nose behind Taste of Paradise. Joey Franco ran a mile in 1:36.94.

Trained by David Hofmans for Jerry Frankel, Joey Franco has won 4 of 5 starts. He will be kept apart from stablemate Siphonic, who is preparing for a return after a six-month break. Siphonic is expected to start at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in October, according to assistant trainer Grant Hofmans.

Grant Hofmans said short-term plans for Joey Franco are uncertain.

"This was good, but now we have to see if he can go farther," said Grant Hofmans.

The California Cup Classic is run over 1 1/8 miles on Nov. 2. Defending champion Irisheyesareflying is not expected, and Hollywood Gold Cup winner Sky Jack is out with a knee injury.

A rarity: Turf washed out

A rare September rainstorm forced two races off the turf on Friday and Saturday.

After jockeys rode the first turf race on Friday, they told track officials that the course was "soft and too wet," according to racing secretary Tom Robbins. The second and final turf race of the day, an allowance race, was transferred to dirt as was Saturday's first race, a $50,000 claiming race.

Officially, .08 of an inch of rain fell at the track, though other areas of San Diego recorded .13 of an inch. It was the first significant rain in the San Diego area since April.

Controversial disqualification

There was confusion after the eighth and final race on Friday when Del Mar officials provided no explanation to the public after Cat on Guard was disqualified from first to second.

Following a five-minute inquiry, Cat on Guard was demoted from first to second and placed behind runner-up Mecanico. After the decision, both head-on and pan replays were shown on monitors, but no commentary was provided explaining the stewards' decision. During the replays, boos could be heard through the grandstand.

Saturday morning, steward Ingrid Fermin explained the decision.

"The horse came out on three separate occasions and it was the opinion of the stewards that it was significant enough to affect the outcome," Fermin said.

* Jockey Gary Stevens has been given a five-day suspension for careless riding in the first race on Thursday. Stevens's mount, Dog Days, was disqualified from second and placed seventh after bothering Vino Classico on the final turn. Stevens was cited for causing interference. His suspension begins Monday and continues through Saturday. If a mount becomes available, he will be able to ride the Del Mar Futurity because it is a designated race exempt from suspension.

* Jockey Juan Leyva lost his apprentice status when he rode his 40th career winner at Los Alamitos on Thursday. Leyva claimed seven pounds because he had yet to win his 40th race, but because it took Leyva more than a year after his fifth win to reach 40 victories, he lost all apprentice conditions with Thursday's win.

* Wednesday is the final day of the Del Mar meeting. Fairplex Park opens at the Los Angeles County Fair on Friday with a program that includes the $50,000 Foothill Stakes for 3-year-olds over 6 1/2 furlongs.