War Emblem embarks on Horse of the Year path in Oceanport

Posted: Monday, August 05, 2002

OCEANPORT, N.J. -- War Emblem gave trainer Bob Baffert a perfect wedding present -- a wire-to-wire victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday.

Just hours after Baffert left his Saturday night wedding reception in California, racing's most recognized trainer watched his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner polish off four challengers in the Haskell.

The jet black colt easily held off Magic Weisner by 3 1/2 lengths, with Like A Hero third, followed by Puck and Mr. Mellon in the five-horse field.

In his first race since stumbling badly and finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes on June 8, War Emblem was back to his front-running self. Just like he did in winning the Kentucky Derby, the 3-year-old colt got off to a flying start after rearing up just before the gates sprang open.

Under Victor Espinoza, War Emblem broke cleanly and went right to the front, just off the rail. Puck was inside, just a half-length behind. War Emblem maintained the advantage into the first turn, then moved off to nearly a three-length lead along the backstretch.

At the far turn, War Emblem remained in control and opened a four-length margin entering the stretch. Magic Weisner made a late run but came up well short under new rider Mike Luzzi.

''I'm glad War Emblem showed up today,'' Baffert said. ''And the fans were really cheering him on. There's was a lot of pressure on us, but he's been training great, we brought him here and he showed his stuff. That's the War Emblem we all know.''

War Emblem won for the seventh time in 11 career starts. Racing for the first time since the July 22 death of owner Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman, War Emblem earned $600,000 for The Thoroughbred Corp., now being overseen by one of Prince Ahmed's brothers. War Emblem boosted his earnings to $3,491,000.

Winning time for the 1 1/8-mile Haskell was 1:48 1-5, more than a second off the stakes record. War Emblem, sent off as the overwhelming 3-10 favorite by the crowd of 45,212, returned $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10.

Magic Weisner, who also finished second to War Emblem in the Preakness, returned $2.80 and $2.10. Like A Hero, seventh in the Belmont, paid $2.10 to show.

War Emblem became the first Kentucky Derby winner to take the Haskell. Four tried before him.

Baffert has had a roller-coaster two weeks since the death of Prince Ahmed. First War Emblem was in the Haskell, then out, then in again.

Then came news Baffert was paid a $50,000 appearance fee by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Monmouth, for bringing War Emblem to the Haskell.

Baffert was paid the same amount last year for bringing Point Given to the Haskell, but the deal was never made public.

Just before the Haskell, Baffert said the fee was offered after the Belmont, and was never a consideration in deterring whether to bring War Emblem to the Jersey shore.

''To some, it might sound unethical to run if your only intent is to get the fee,'' Baffert said. ''Hey, we came here to win a $1 million race.''

War Emblem did exactly that.

HEAD:War Emblem embarks on Horse of the Year path in Oceanport

HEAD:Warpath

BYLINE1:By RICHARD ROSENBLATT

BYLINE2:AP Racing Writer

OCEANPORT, N.J. -- War Emblem gave trainer Bob Baffert a perfect wedding present -- a wire-to-wire victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday.

Just hours after Baffert left his Saturday night wedding reception in California, racing's most recognized trainer watched his Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner polish off four challengers in the Haskell.

The jet black colt easily held off Magic Weisner by 3 1/2 lengths, with Like A Hero third, followed by Puck and Mr. Mellon in the five-horse field.

In his first race since stumbling badly and finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes on June 8, War Emblem was back to his front-running self. Just like he did in winning the Kentucky Derby, the 3-year-old colt got off to a flying start after rearing up just before the gates sprang open.

Under Victor Espinoza, War Emblem broke cleanly and went right to the front, just off the rail. Puck was inside, just a half-length behind. War Emblem maintained the advantage into the first turn, then moved off to nearly a three-length lead along the backstretch.

At the far turn, War Emblem remained in control and opened a four-length margin entering the stretch. Magic Weisner made a late run but came up well short under new rider Mike Luzzi.

''I'm glad War Emblem showed up today,'' Baffert said. ''And the fans were really cheering him on. There's was a lot of pressure on us, but he's been training great, we brought him here and he showed his stuff. That's the War Emblem we all know.''

War Emblem won for the seventh time in 11 career starts. Racing for the first time since the July 22 death of owner Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman, War Emblem earned $600,000 for The Thoroughbred Corp., now being overseen by one of Prince Ahmed's brothers. War Emblem boosted his earnings to $3,491,000.

Winning time for the 1 1/8-mile Haskell was 1:48 1-5, more than a second off the stakes record. War Emblem, sent off as the overwhelming 3-10 favorite by the crowd of 45,212, returned $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10.

Magic Weisner, who also finished second to War Emblem in the Preakness, returned $2.80 and $2.10. Like A Hero, seventh in the Belmont, paid $2.10 to show.

War Emblem became the first Kentucky Derby winner to take the Haskell. Four tried before him.

Baffert has had a roller-coaster two weeks since the death of Prince Ahmed. First War Emblem was in the Haskell, then out, then in again.

Then came news Baffert was paid a $50,000 appearance fee by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Monmouth, for bringing War Emblem to the Haskell.

Baffert was paid the same amount last year for bringing Point Given to the Haskell, but the deal was never made public.

Just before the Haskell, Baffert said the fee was offered after the Belmont, and was never a consideration in deterring whether to bring War Emblem to the Jersey shore.

''To some, it might sound unethical to run if your only intent is to get the fee,'' Baffert said. ''Hey, we came here to win a $1 million race.''

War Emblem did exactly that.



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