Trainer Bob Baffert's highly prized 2-year-old Roman Ruler fired a bullet :57 4/5 for five furlongs Monday morning in preparation for Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal (gr. II) at Del Mar.The $500,000 son of Fusaichi Pegasus won his debut impressively at Hollywood Park.Stablemate Actxecutive, a second prospect for the Best Pal, was nearly as flashy. The Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. II) runner-up cruised the same distance in :58 4/5, which was the second fastest for the distance. Actxecutive, a son of Noactor, was also being considered for the Aug. 21 Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Baffert, who has dominated the 2-year-old ranks at Del Mar for the past 10 years, is heating up. His 2-year-old crop has started to roll when the filly Inspiring was super-impressive in winning Saturday's Sorrento Stakes (gr. III). Another filly, Excessively Nice scored sharply in a maiden special weight Sunday, while another juvenile, Fusaichi Rock Star, won handily Saturday.Baffert found himself without a 2-year-old meet champion last year for the first time since 1995. During that span, he saddled either the winner of the Del Mar Debutante or the Del Mar Futurity, including a stretch of seven straight Futurities from 1996 to 2002.In 2003, the juvenile championships went to trainer Richard Mandella's Siphonizer in the Futurity and Halfbridled in the Debutante. Halfbridled went on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Eclipse Award as North America's top 2-year-old filly.