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Jul 27, 2012

Paynter favored in 45th Haskell


Oceanport, NJ (Sports Network) - Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, still recovering from a heart attack in March, won't be making the trip to Monmouth Park for Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational but his Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter has the responsibility of going for the trainer's sixth win in the 1 1/8 mile stakes.

Baffert's top three-year-old Bodemeister spiked a fever recently which put him off a start in the Haskell and taking the place of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up will be Paynter, who has been made the 3-2 morning line favorite in the six horse field.

"The draw went pretty well," Baffert said after Paynter drew post three and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano. This will be Bejarano's first time aboard the colt.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Paynter has posted two wins and a pair of seconds in five career starts for $352,224. He finished fourth to I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 and second in the Derby Trial three weeks later.

Baffert has won the Haskell a record five times, including the last two years with Coil in 2011 and Lookin At Lucky the year before. The Hall of Fame conditioner previously won the race with Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002) and Roman Ruler (2005).

Wood Memorial champ Gemologist and Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan are the 3-1 co-second picks for Sunday. Gemologist will start to the immediate outside of Paynter with Dullahan in post two.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for WinStar Farm, Gemologist will again be ridden by Javier Castellano. "I think it's perfect," Pletcher noted about the draw.

Gemologist has not started since his 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, his only career loss. Pletcher believes the colt stepped on a stone during the running of the race after he came up lame a couple days later. A winner of his first five career starts, Gemologist has banked $784,855.

Pletcher captured the Haskell in consecutive years with Bluegrass Cat (2006) and Any Given Saturday (2007).

Trainer Dale Romans goes for his first Haskell victory with Dullahan after coming up a neck short last year with Shackleford behind Bob Baffert's Coil. The defeated Belmont Stakes favorite will be guided by Kent Desormeaux, who won the stakes in 2008 with Big Brown.

"A small field like this, post position doesn't matter," Romans said.

Dullahan, who finished third to I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby, was seventh in the Belmont Stakes behind Union Rags. Owned by Donegal Racing, the chestnut colt has won two of 10 lifetime starts for $1,072,091.

From the rail out here is the field for the Haskell: Nonios, Corey Nakatani, 7-2; Dullahan, Kent Desormeaux, 3-1; Paynter, Rafael Bejarano, 3-2; Gemologist, Javier Castellano, 3-1; Handsome Mike, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1 and Stealcase, Shaun Bridgmohan, 8-1.

Post-time for the Haskell Invitational will be approximately 6:17 p.m. (ET).

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