07/26/2002 11:00PM

War Emblem back in Haskell


DEL MAR, Calif. - War Emblem, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, rejoined the field for the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday, less a week after he was declared from the race following the death of owner Ahmed bin Salman.

Trainer Bob Baffert informed Monmouth Park officials on Saturday that War Emblem was a candidate. Earlier in the week, Baffert declared War Emblem from the Haskell after Salman's death and Baffert's unhappiness with the 124-pound weight assignment.

But the lack of a strong field, combined with War Emblem's recent training, led Baffert and Richard Mulhall, the racing manager of Salman's Thoroughbred Corp., to reconsider.

"That's a lot of money to leave on the table," Mulhall said.

On Friday, the Haskell lost a top contender when Came Home, the winner of five stakes this year, including the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 14, was removed from consideration. Came Home is being pointed to the $200,000 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

In the Haskell, War Emblem will face a small field that includes Magic Weisner, the winner of the Ohio Derby and the runner-up in the Preakness Stakes; Like a Hero, who was second to Came Home in the Swaps Stakes; and Puck. Several owners and trainers are considering the Haskell Invitational or the $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Sunday.

Baffert on Saturday emphasized that War Emblem's participation hinges on a workout at Del Mar on Monday. "It all depends on the workout," Baffert said.

Baffert was satisfied with War Emblem's five-furlong workout in 1:01 last Wednesday. He said the colt ran off "for about a mile" during an otherwise routine gallop on Saturday.

War Emblem is scheduled to leave on Thursday. He has not started since finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in a bid to sweep the Triple Crown.

As a longer-term goal for War Emblem, Baffert is considering the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 25.

Baffert and the Thoroughbred Corp. won the 2001 Haskell Invitational with Point Given, who was later named Horse of the Year.