Paynter gives Baffert his sixth Haskell I. win
Zayat Stables' Paynter ran by Gemologist with three furlongs to go en-route to a dominating 3 3/4-length victory in the $1 million Haskell Invitational Sunday at Monmouth Park. The victory marked the sixth time, and third in a row, that Bob Baffert has visited the Monmouth winner's circle with a Haskell winner, both records for the historical race.
Coming off a close second in the June 9 Belmont S. (G1), Paynter was sent off the even money favorite in the Haskell's six horse field. Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard the bay colt for the first time, sat just off the pace set by Gemologist for the first six furlongs. Bejarano gave his mount a nudge midway around the far turn, and Paynter responded with zeal, clearing off easily to finish the mile and an eighth in 1:48.87. He earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, a career best and one of the highest numbers of any sophomore in 2012.
“Jimmy (assistant trainer Barnes, who saddled Paynter while Baffert was in California) and I have always been high on him,” Baffert said of Paynter. “It was nice to finally get a big win for Zayat (Stables) and with Rafael Bejarano.”
When asked what it was like to win a sixth Haskell, the trainer said, “When you win, they always feel like the first one. They’re all exciting and they never get old.”
“I knew I could come from off the pace if I wanted to,” Bejarano said. “I pulled him to the outside and that was that. He ran so easy.
“I knew Gemologist was the horse to beat, but if he wanted to go to the lead, that was fine. At the half-mile pole, my horse blew by him and that was that.”
Paynter, who won the first stakes race of his six-race career, earned $600,000 for his Haskell victory, bringing his career total to $952,224 on a record of three wins and two seconds in six starts.
Barnes said that Paynter would ship back to southern California on Tuesday, then return to the East Coast and run in the $1 million Travers (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
Baffert's previous Haskell winners were Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), Lookin at Lucky (2010), and Coil (2011).