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Baffert goes for another Haskell win

OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) - 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 last three and an unprecedented six since 2001.

Baffert will have a chance to extend that streak on Sunday in the 1 1-8 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 season.

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 the 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 Lucas-trained Oxbow finished second to 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 One race for a million dollars. There's a lot on the line on Sunday 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 here last month. 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.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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Mike Dempsey Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup.
The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes.

Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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Jerry Sessa Jerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
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In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

Jerry is always looking to repeat his 2012 Triple Crown success, when he selected the winning horses for The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes.

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