Officer Romps in Best Pal; War Chant Sibling Earns First Win

The Thoroughbred Corporation's Officer remained undefeated from three starts with a stakes-record setting victory over two rivals in the $138,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) and Double Cat, a half-sister to War Chant, earned her first win on Wednesday at Del Mar.

In the feature, the Bob Baffert-trained Officer (Bertrando--St. Helens Shadow, by Septieme Ciel) raced in third through the early going, moved up to second on the outside when Essence of Dubai could not keep up with the pace, then reeled in pacesetter Metatron en route to the seven-length victory. Under no urging from Victor Espinoza, Officer completed the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.08 on a fast track. The winning time eclipsed the previous fastest Best Pal time of 1:15 4/5 set in 1995 by Cobra King.

Following the race, Espinoza raved about Officer.

"This is the easiest I've ever won on this horse. In fact, it's the easiest I've ever won on any horse," the rider said. "I never really let him run. He just did it so easy. He hasn't been tested yet. I'll tell you right now, I think he's a champion. He's so professional. You can do anything you want to do with this horse. He just wants to run. I hope we don't ever have to test him in the future. That would be nice. He's the best 2-year-old I've ever ridden. No doubt about it. At the three-eighths (pole) he was asking me. I didn't have to ask him. He really wanted to go. I just let out a little bit on the reins and he did the rest. He is very special. Have you ever seen one like him?"

Metatron finished second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Essence of Dubai. Werblin was scratched with three minutes to post due to unsoundness in his right hind leg. Ecstatic, a stablemate of the winner, was scratched earlier.

Officer earned $90,000 for his third career win. The California-bred previously won the restricted Graduation Stakes and a maiden race at Hollywood Park. He was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Martin J. Wygod.

Officer paid $3 for the win. Place betting was eliminated due to the late scratch of Werblin. The $1 exacta paid $3.

The victory was the third Best Pal win in the last four years for Baffert, who also sent out Flame Thrower and Worldly Manner to victories in the race.

Earlier on the card, Double Cat earned a one-length win in her second career start. The daughter of Storm Cat--Hollywood Wildcat completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.89 on firm turf. Marjorie and Irving Cowan's homebred 3-year-old filly tracked pacesetter Mabel Kent and then edged past her in the stretch to earn the victory. The Neil Drysdale trainee was ridden to victory by Gary Stevens.

In her only previous start, Double Cat finished second to a debuting Tamara Princess in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park. Tamara Princess, a full sister to champion Riboletta, will make her second career start on Thursday at Del Mar. In the one-mile race, Mike Smith will guide the Eduardo Inda-trained 3-year-old from post five when she starts as the 8-5 morning-line favorite.

A pick six carryover of $134,179 from Monday's card resulted in a pick six pool of $927,039 Wednesday and a winning payout of $9,176.20. The consolation pick six paid $96.80 for five of six correct. (Charts, Equibase)