08/02/2002 12:00AM

Baffert: Half of 50G fee to charity

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Bob Baffert, who received a $50,000 appearance fee for bringing War Emblem to Monmouth Park for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, said Friday that half the fee would be donated to charity.

In a statement, Baffert said that the fee was paid by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth, and that the fee had played no role in War Emblem's off-and-on status for the race, which will be run Sunday.

"The decision to enter the horse was made by Richard Mulhall, manager of the Thoroughbred Corporation, and me after we discussed options for the horse over several weeks," Baffert said.

"I am concerned that the nature of the appearance fee has been mischaracterized and that some might perceive that the fee influenced our decision to enter. Upon additional discussion with the Thoroughbred Corporation, we have decided that half of the fee will be donated to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in memory of Prince Ahmed bin Salman."

Salman, who owned the Thoroughbred Corporation, died two weeks ago at age 43.

Baffert said that public appearance fees were common in other sports. "In consultation with my clients, I will continue to accept these fees," he said.

Earlier Friday, Robert Kulina, general manager of Monmouth, said that the appearance fee was offered well in advance of the Haskell and that the same fee was paid to Baffert last year, when the trainer won the race with Point Given.

"It was on the table after the Belmont Stakes," Kulina said of this year's appearance fee. "This isn't something new."

"Bob Baffert is the most recognizable force in the industry," Kulina said. "He did television for us last year, signed autographs, and is a star in his own right. And he's supported us over the years by sending his best horses. It was a business decision we think was well worth it."

True Passion's amazing rise

Trainer Donald Reeder runs a stable at Philadelphia Park that usually consists of claiming horses, and when he purchased True Passion for owner Elliott Krems out of California in December, Reeder expected True Passion to be a nice addition to the barn as a hard-knocking claimer.

That is until True Passion was gelded. Since being gelded when he arrived in Reeder's barn, True Passion has risen from the claiming ranks to become a Grade 3 winner in only four months. The amazing rise resumes Sunday, as True Passion enters the $65,000 Teddy Drone Stakes on the Haskell undercard with a six-race winning streak.

"It's been amazing," Reeder said. "I usually have claimers, some hard-knocking horses, but this horse probably has more ability than anything I've ever had."

Reeder said he had no inclination that True Passion would need to be gelded in order to make him a better racehorse. Reeder said he gelds most of his horses, because unless they end up being studs, they turn out to be better racehorses.

True Passion's debut for Reeder was in a $20,000 mile and seventy-yard claiming race at Philly Park Mar. 24, and he ran ninth, beaten nearly 23 lengths. But Reeder said the race was merely to get True Passion fit, and when he returned in a sprint two weeks later, he won at the same level by 6 1/2 lengths. He hasn't lost since.

In the Teddy Drone, True Passion faces eight others sprinters at six furlongs. He surely will be on the lead, because that is from where he has won his last six races, but if he runs like he has recently, you can tack on another win to that rise up the ladder.

Crash Course set up for Battlefield

While some horses run in easy spots off a long layoff, Crash Course came off a nearly seven-month layoff in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth July 6. Unfortunately for Crash Course, he was supposed to prep for the U.N. in the Oceanport Handicap, but that race was rained off the turf.

Crash Course returns from a sixth-place finish in the U.N. in an easier spot Sunday, the $65,000 Battlefield Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at nine furlongs on the turf.

Crash Course, a 6-year-old gelding, had an unlucky summer last year, with four third-place finishers in Monmouth stakes. But he turned around those misfortunes after leaving Monmouth, winning the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger and then the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Jan. 20, his last start before the U.N. He should benefit from a race off the layoff and move forward second off a layoff.

Alphebetical in tough race

Alphabetical may have only won his first turf start in his last race July 13, but the grass races he has run second in have made him one of the top 3-year-old turf horses on the grounds.

The Alan Seewald-trained Alphabetical ran second last year to Lord Juban, in only his third turf start this year ran second to the Bill Mott-trained Patrol at Belmont, and next out ran second to Kris's Prayer in the Choice Stakes here June 23.

His easy yet impressive allowance score against older horses last time brings him into the $65,000 Lamplighter Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the turf Sunday.

Touring England, trained by Phil Oliver, will probably vie for favoritism with Alphabetical and Westcliffe, trained by Christophe Clement. Touring England ran third in the $500,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs July 13. In his two previous starts at Monmouth, he ran fourth in the Choice Stakes and Grade 3 Jersey Derby.

Clement is always dangerous on the turf, and he has horses running in all three undercard turf stakes. Westcliffe was third in the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont June 15 and returned off that race to defeat older horses in an entry-level allowance race July 6.

o Jockey Roberto Alvarado will likely return to riding on Wednesday, after missing almost eight weeks because of a broken hand suffered June 14 while washing his SUV.