War Emblem wins Haskell

Aug. 4, 2002 at 7:48 PM
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OCEANPORT, N.J., Aug. 4 (UPI) -- War Emblem outclassed a field of five Sunday at Monmouth Park, posting a wire-to-wire win at the $1 million Haskell Invitational.

The winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown faced little competition as he returned to the track for the first time since a disappointing loss in the Belmont Stakes.

Four horses were morning scratches, leaving just four to challenge War Emblem, which also had been expected to skip the 1 1/8-mile race following the death of owner Prince Ahmed Salman on July 21.

But Bob Baffert reconsidered and the 3-year-old presented his trainer with a belated wedding gift. The 2-5 favorite coasted to a four-length victory under Victor Espinoza, who also was aboard for all three Triple Crown races.

"I hoped the race would be that easy," said Baffert, who was married Saturday and will honeymoon at Saratoga. "The easier the race, the longer they last. He had been going so well at Del Mar, getting stronger and stronger, we knew he was ready.

"He was a little rank on the first turn, but once he starts striding out, I knew he would win unless something disastrous happened."

"I never really asked him to run," Espinoza said. "Everybody keeps asking me about the Belmont, but whatever happened there happened. He did it very easy today. This horse today, actually every day, he's all business. He just loves to win."

War Emblem won in 1:48.1, the 10th-fastest time in Haskell history, and paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Magic Weisner was second under Mike Luzzi and returned $2.80 and $2.10. Like A Hero showed for $2.10.

It was the second straight Haskell victory for Baffert, who won last year with Point Given, another horse in the Saudi stable of The Thorougbred Corporation.

War Emblem, however, became the first Kentucky Derby winner to capture this race and topped the $3.5 million mark in career earnings.

Among the scratches was Medaglia d'Oro, the early second choice who captured Sunday's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.

Puck finished fourth but pulled up with an injured right foreleg and was taken from the track by ambulance. Long shot Mr. Mellon was last under Pat Day, who could have broken Chris McCarron's all-time earnings record with a win.

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