Fog City Stable's heavily-favored Roman Ruler, in his second career start, galloped past his stablemate Actxecutive in mid-stretch on his way to an easy victory in the $150,000 Best Pal (gr. II) for 2-year-olds at Del Mar Sunday.Trainer Bob Baffert's talented Fusaichi Pegasus colt overcame a slow start for jockey Corey Nakatani and avoided a fallen horse, Wetherly, at mid-turn. Roman Ruler, fourth when Wetherly fell, caught Things Happen and Actxecutive in the stretch and won ridden out under slight hand urging by seven lengths. The time was 1:15 4/5 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.""This horse is just learning," said Baffert, who won his fifth Best Pal. "This was a great experience for him, running from behind horses. I told Corey not to rush him, let him come off the pace."Baffert said he was surprised Roman Ruler won so easily over his other colt, Actxecutive, who he said also ran well but needs two turns."When (Roman Ruler) broke way back there, I thought he had no chance of winning. He was impressive."Wetherly suffered a compound fracture of his left foreleg, according to track veterinarian Dr. Jeff Blea. He was euthanized.
The Kentucky-bred son of Expelled had two previous starts for trainer and part owner William Currin, breaking his maiden by four lengths at Del Mar July 24. Wetherly's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, was complaining of pain in his right hand afterward, but continued to ride.Things Happen, Wetherly and Actxecutive set off on a wickedly fast pace (:21 4/5, :44 4/5) as Roman Ruler broke last and spotted the leaders five lengths at the start. Things Happen, Martin Pedroza aboard, and Actxecutive, ridden by David Flores, continued to battle for the lead in swift style as Wetherly tracked in third. Asked for more heading into the turn, Wetherly responded initially, but as he approached the leaders, he suddenly went down, Desormeaux tumbling away. Roman Ruler, who was moving up for Nakatani, needed to steady to avoid the fallen horse and rider.There wasn't much drama after that as Roman Ruler resumed his charge around the turn and cantered to victory on the outside. Actxecutive was seven lengths behind in second. Slewsbag, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., was a distant third, 17 lengths behind the winner."It happened so fast," Nakatani said of the fallen horse. "I was right behind him. Luckily, we missed him."This horse is a special horse. We're on the road to the Triple Crown races. Keep your fingers crossed."The victory sets up a dandy match-up in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) Sept. 8 between Roman Ruler and undefeated Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) winner Chandtrue, although Baffert was unwilling to commit Roman Ruler to the race.Kentucky-bred Roman Ruler, a $500,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September, is from the Silver Deputy mare Silvery Swan.He won his five-furlong debut at Hollywood Park June 19 by four lengths in :57 1/5. Sunday's victory was worth $90,000 to Fog City, the nom de course for Bill Bianco and David Shimmon, increasing Roman Ruler's earnings to $115,800.The 1-2 choice in the field of five, Roman Ruler paid $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Actxecutive returned $3 and $2.10, completing an $8.40 exacta. Slewsbag's show was $2.10.(Chart, Equibase)