OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) - Paynter followed his runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes with a dominating run in the Haskell Invitational, another breakout performance for the colt who languished as Bodemeister's lesser-known stablemate.
Paynter stormed into the lead entering the far turn and pulled away to win the $1 million Haskell on Sunday at Monmouth Park, giving trainer Bob Baffert his third straight victory in the race and sixth overall.
"He's been in Bodemeister's shadow his whole career and look how he responded today," said Justin Zayat of Zayat Stables, which owns both horses. "We really wanted to win this race. Whoever ran against us today, we were ready. Paynter showed up today. "
The win at the Haskell meant a lot to Zayat, who lives in Teaneck, about 45 miles from Monmouth.
"I always watched this race on television," Zayat said. "To win this race in New Jersey is amazing. I'm really grateful. It's special because we always ran second with this horse."
By earning $600,000 for the victory, Paynter went over $1 million in earnings, a major accomplishment adter not racing at all as a 2-year-old.
Gemologist took the lead in the 1 1/8-mile race, with Paynter on his flank through the backstretch. When they moved into the far turn, Paynter surged ahead under Rafael Bejarano and was never threatened in winning easily by 3 3/4 lengths. Nonios was second and Stealcase third in the field of six.
"I knew he was a little wide coming out of the gate," Bejarano said. "But I knew I had so much horse. I was praying for the right moment to move to the lead. I just let him go and he showed a big kick. I knew he would show me a big kick."
Baffert wasn't in attendance, leaving assistant Jimmy Barnes in charge of Paynter. Baffert won the Haskell with Coil last year, and with Lookin At Lucky in 2010. His other Haskell winners were Point Given in 2001, War Emblem in 2002 and Roman Ruler in 2005.
"This was unbelievable," Barnes said. "Rafael rode him brilliantly. It was wonderful for us. I didn't want him to get buried inside, but Rafael got him to a comfortable spot. He saw what was developing and with a little bit of urging, he made it look easy. We knew it was over."
Paynter, the even money favorite, finished in 1:48.4 and paid $4, $2.60 and $2.40. Nonios returned $5.20 and $3.80, and Stealcase paid $5 to show.
Gemologist, the second choice at 9-5, faded to finish last in the field of six.
"We let Gemologist get off to the first jump and followed him the whole way," Bejarano said. "Gemologist was the only horse to beat and we beat him. It's a great feeling to ride a horse like this."
Barnes said Paynter will head back to California and begin training for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August.
"That would be the next goal," said Barnes, but there is no plan to race the two Zayat Stables standout colts against each other.
Paytner's win capped a full day of stakes races at Monmouth.
In the $100,000 Majestic Light Stakes, Gourmet Dinner ($16.20), ridden by Javier Castellano, rallied to beat Ponzi Scheme by a neck.
In the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes, favorite Royal Currier took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off a late surge from Travelin Man to win by a nose. Royal Currier, with Joe Bravo aboard, paid $6.80 to win.
Laughing, an Irish-bred horse who had been out of action since May, made a triumphant return to take the $150,000 Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes. Laughing ($4.40), ridden by Bejarano, took the lead early and stormed home on the turf course to win by a length over Shimmering Moment.
Long-shot Brushed By A Star, ridden by Corey Nakatani, broke in the stretch to take the $200,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes, paying $21.20. Brushed By A Star, a $10,000 purchase two years ago by trainer Grant Forster's family, has earned more than $250,000 this year.
Another long shot, Tune Me In ($53.60), won the $150,000 Oceanport Stakes. Tune Me In, ridden by Paco Lopez, pulled away in the final strides to edge odds-on favorite Queen'splatekitten.