Paynter, the runner-up in the Belmont Stakes in his last
race, has been installed the 3-2 morning line favorite for the Grade 1 $1
million Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth Park.
Five-time Haskell-winning trainer Bob Baffert is sending the
son of Awesome Again from his Southern California base and Paynter will break
from post position three in the field of six 3-year-olds entered on Thursday.
“The draw went pretty well,” said Baffert, who won
back-to-back runnings of the Haskell in 2011 with Coil and 2010 with Lookin At
Lucky. “I’m happy to have a horse who is good enough to run, and as the
As for tactics during the race, Paynter figures to be
setting the fractions.
“It depends on the break where he runs, but he’s the kind of
horse who needs to be up close,” Baffert added.
From the rail out, the field with odds and riders: Nonios,
7-2, Corey Nakatani; Dullahan, 3-1, Kent Desormeaux; Paynter, 3-2, Rafael
Bejarano; Gemologist, 3-1; Handsome
Mike, 7-2, Mario Gutierrez; and Stealcase, 8-1, Shaun Bridgmohan.
WinStar Farm’s Gemologist has not raced since the colt
bruised his foot in the Kentucky Derby and finished 16th but trainer
Todd Pletcher said he’s at the top of his game now and primed for the Haskell.
“The post is perfect,” said Pletcher, who won consecutive
runnings of the race in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and in 2007 with Any Given
Saturday. “I’d rather be sitting right next to Paynter. Our horse is an
extremely good gate horse and this will allow him to get into the flow of the
race quickly and force Paynter to make a decision.”
Trainer Dale Romans just missed winning his first Haskell
last year when Shackelford finished only a neck behind Coil. He was also
pleased with where Dullahan, the third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby,
“In a small field, post position isn’t that important,
especially with my horse,” said Romans. “He’ll drop back from the break and
come with one run. My guys say he’s doing well (at Monmouth). I like a mile and
an eighth for him. He’ll get a little more pace up front and come with that one
Jerry Hollendorfer, who last year joined Baffert in the
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, won the Haskell in 1989 with King
Glorious. Now he is back with Nonios, winner of the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park
two starts back. The son of Pleasantly Perfect will break from the rail.
“I might as well like the post because there isn’t much I
can do about it,” said Hollendorfer, who will travel from his base in Northern
California to saddle the colt. “In a short field, it shouldn’t be too hard for
the riders to get to where they need to be.”
Handsome Mike will carry the colors of J. Paul Reddam and
with Mario Gutierrez coming to ride at Monmouth for the first time, the
connections are the same for Kentucky Derby
and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll have Another.
“It’s been fun so far this year and we’re still flying high.
I love that post,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of drawing # 5. “He’s a really
talented colt who has been an underachiever looking at his form.”
Mark Casse, who is looking for his first Haskell victory,
was pleased that John C. Oxley’s Stealcase will be the last to load.
“I’m glad to hear he drew the outside post because he tends
to break a touch slow, so the outside won’t matter,” said Casse.
The Haskell is slated as the 13th race on a
14-race program with an estimated post of 6:17 p.m. The Haskell Day card will get underway at noon,
with gates opening at 10 a.m.
The Haskell Field:
PP Horse Jockey Odds
Nonios Corey Nakatani 7-2
Dullahan Kent Desormeaux 3-1
Paynter Rafael Bejarano 3-2
Gemologist Javier Castellano 3-1
Handsome Mike Mario Gutierrez 15-1
Stealcase Shaun Bridgmohan 8-1