OCEANPORT, N.J. — If Preakness winner Oxbow and the nearly perfect Verrazano want to win the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, they are going to have to find a way to beat trainer Bob Baffert.
The Hall of Famer has turned the Haskell into ‘Bob’s Baby.’ He has won the past three and an unprecedented six since 2001.
Baffert will have a chance to extend that streak today in the 1⅛ mile for 3-year-olds when he sends out an improving Power Broker against six rivals in the track’s signature event of the summer.
Power Broker, who skipped the Triple Crown races this year, has won two of three starts in 2013, with the most recent being in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont in early June.
“He’s been training well. And so it’s going to be a good – it’s going to be a good class check for him,” Baffert said. “And so I think he really deserves a chance.”
Rosie Napravnik has the ride on the colt who drew the No. 4 post position and was made a 3-1 choice in the morning line.
Oxbow and Verrazano, who have early speed like Power Broker, are outside of him.
“I think the break’s important and just get them in a comfortable spot,” Baffert said. “You don’t know, you’ll see speed, but he has speed and style. So I’m sure he’ll be up there close with those horses. I think the break is so important in a race.”
After winning the Preakness, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Oxbow finished second to Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice in the Belmont Stakes. He is the 2-1 second choice with Gary Stevens listed to ride. They drew post No. 5.
This will be his first race since the Belmont.
“Obviously, with the 50-day layoffs between the Belmont Stakes and the Haskell, that’s just some concern, but (Wayne), you know, obviously is looking at the big picture for this year,” Stevens said. “This is a Grade 1 race for a million dollars. There’s a lot on the line (today) for the horse and all involved. I’m looking for a big effort from him and I’ve been in constant contact with (Wayne). He’s happy with where the horse is. He’s said to freshen him up with the second half of the year campaign for him. We’re starting all over.”
Verrazano was made the 9-5 favorite despite drawing the outside No. 7 post for jockey John Velazquez. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt has won five of six career starts, including the Pegasus Stakes in June. His only loss was in the Kentucky Derby when he didn’t handle an off track and finished 14th.
Brian Sullivan, the principle owner of Verrazano, likes the outside post.
“We can do whatever we need to do, which is a good spot to be, and if you can do that, you want to be outside the horses,” Sullivan said. “So we’ll let them see what they want to do and the Johnny will probably just have to adjust and we’ll go from there.”
Haskell field in post-position order with horse, rider and morning odds :
Vyjack, Paco Lopez, 12-1; Pick of the Litter, Jesus Castanon, 15-1; Golden Soul, Robby Albarado, 8-1; Power Broker, Napravnik, 3-1; Obow, Stevens, 2-1; Micromanage, Joe Bravo, 6-1, and Verrazano, Velazquez, 9-5.
Post time is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. EDT.
The undercard will feature the $200,000 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares; the $200,000 Monmouth Cup for older horses at a mile and a sixteenth, the $150,000 Matchmaker for fillies and mares on turf and the $150,000 Oceanport for older horses on turf.