Zayat Stables colorbearers finished second in each of this year’s Triple Crown races. Bodemeister finished second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) to I’ll Have Another. Paynter finished second last time out to Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
On Sunday, Paynter changed the string of runner-up finishes in key races with an impressive score in the Haskell under Rafael Bejarano for trainer Bob Baffert. Paynter’s win provided Baffert with an unprecedented sixth victory and third straight in Monmouth Park’s signature event.
The bay colt by Awesome Again, who came close in the Belmont Stakes last out when he finished just a neck behind Union Rags, put himself squarely in the 3-year-old championship picture as he made his even-money starting price look like a bargain in the Haskell.
Paynter tracked the early pace of Gemologist and put that rival away on the far turn. In the final furlong, Paynter pulled clear from Nonios and won the race by nearly four lengths. He covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.87. Nonios held second and Stealcase finished third.
Baffert, who watched the race on television from his Del Mar, California, headquarters with assistant trainer Jim Barnes doing the saddling honors at Monmouth, was ecstatic over his horse’s performance.
“Jimmy 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.”
Baffert said that Paynter showed in his Del Mar works that he was ready to roll today.
“He worked really well there getting ready for this,” the trainer said. “He came here and showed us he is a serious horse.”
Bejarano, who had been working Paynter in the mornings but had never ridden the colt, was given a chance on him for the Haskell and came through.
“I knew I could come from off the pace if I wanted to,” the jockey said. “I pulled him to the outside and that was that. He ran so easy.”
–Monmouth Park Publicity contributed to this report.