“Zayat Stables’ Paynter romped to a 3 3/4-length triumph over Nonios in Sunday’s Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational, furthering Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s stranglehold on Monmouth Park’s signature race. Baffert, who already owned the record, has now sent out an unprecedented sixth Haskell winner, and his third in a row.
Paynter was coming off a last-gasp loss to Union Rags in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, capping a heartbreaking Triple Crown series for his connections. Stablemate and fellow Zayat standard-bearer Bodemeister had similarly been collared late by I’ll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
With the retirements of both I’ll Have Another and Union Rags due to injury, the mantle of leading active three-year-old is now up for grabs, and Paynter stated his case with alacrity in the Haskell.
The Awesome Again colt looked rather sweaty in the post parade, but that didn’t affect his odds, or his performance. Clipped to even-money favoritism as he entered the gate, Paynter didn’t break as sharply as his market rival Gemologist, the 2-1 second choice, who blasted straight to the lead.
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