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.