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.
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, drew.
“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 quick kick.”
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.