Even-money favorite Paynter, who took second in last month’s Belmont Stakes, ran away down the stretch to win Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
The victory, in 1 minute, 48.87 seconds, is the third in a row for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and sixth overall in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade I stakes. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano for the first time, Paynter stumbled at the start and was forced to follow 2-1 second pick Gemologist around the first turn and into the backstretch before taking the lead around the final turn for a 3 3/4-length win over Nonios, followed by Stealcase, Handsome Mike, Dullahan and Gemologist.
Baffert did not make the trip, as he is still recovering from a heart attack when in Dubai in March. Paynter follows the last two Haskell champs, Coil (2011) and Lookin At Lucky (2010), from Baffert’s barn.
The other Haskell winners trained by Baffert were Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002) and Roman Ruler (2005).
Paynter picks up $600,000 with the win. The 3-year-old colt has career earnings of $952,224 with three wins in six starts. He did not race as a 2-year-old.
Paynter returned $4.00, $2.60 and $2.40. Nonios, in his first dirt race, paid $5.20 and $3.80, and Stealcase paid $5.00 to show.