07/23/2012 5:12PM

Curlin, Haskell, and Jim Dandy will sort out new-look 3-year-old division

Tom Keyser
Paynter headlines what is expected to be a small field in the Haskell.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – With its stars sidelined, the 3-year-old division will be looking for some once-highly regarded players and some fresh faces to help make things interesting in the second half of the year.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another and Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags are both retired. Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister is sidelined because of a temperature, leaving his stablemate Paynter, the Belmont Stakes runner-up and a horse who has yet to win a stakes race, as the marquee runner in this weekend’s trio of stakes activity.

Friday’s $100,000 Curlin, Saturday’s $600,000 Jim Dandy, and Sunday’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park should produce the bulk of the field for the $1 million Travers Stakes here on Aug. 25.

Paynter, trained by Bob Baffert, headlines what is shaping up to be a small field for the Haskell. He is expected to be joined by Dullahan, the Derby third-place finisher, as well as Nonios, Handsome Mike, and Stealcase.

Paynter’s stablemate Liaison, who is 0 for 6 this year, was confirmed Monday by Baffert as a starter for the Jim Dandy.

On Monday, over Del Mar’s Polytrack surface, Paynter and Liaison worked six-furlongs in company. Liaison, under jockey Martin Garcia, broke off several lengths in front of Paynter, who had Rafael Bejarano aboard. Although Paynter was under more encouragement in the final furlong, he never made up any appreciable ground on Liaison, who was under no pressure from Garcia.

Liaison was officially timed in 1:12.40, while Paynter was given a clocking of 1:11.80, which was the fastest time of nine at the distance on Monday.

Garcia was not originally scheduled to go to Saratoga to ride Liaison, but he was so impressed with the work that he and his agent, Jim Pegram, took off their mounts at Del Mar on Saturday so Garcia could travel to Saratoga.

“He’s really improved since his last work,” Baffert said of Liaison. “I probably gave him too much of a head start on Paynter. Paynter is a lazy work horse. But he galloped out a mile in 1:39.”

Paynter has not raced since finishing second in the Belmont. “He got hit hard in a hind leg, skinned up his leg, and pulled a shoe,” Baffert said. “He was sore for a couple of days, but he came out of it and he’s been doing great.”

Liaison, along with stablemate Gun Boat, running in Sunday’s Amsterdam at Saratoga, were scheduled to ship to Saratoga on Tuesday. Paynter will be flown to New Jersey on Thursday.

Liaison’s competition in the Jim Dandy is expected to include Alpha, Atigun, Fast Falcon, Neck ‘n Neck, Prospective, and Teeth of the Dog. Gemologist is likely.

On Monday, Neck ‘n Neck, winner of the Matt Winn Stakes in his last start, worked a sharp five furlongs in 59.67 seconds over Saratoga’s main track. It was a bit of an adventurous breeze in that two horses broke from the gate and were running right behind Neck ‘n Neck at the start of his breeze. In the stretch, Neck ‘n Neck saw and caught a horse of David Jacobson’s who was breezing.

“He got an education,” trainer Ian Wilkes said.

Gemologist, the Wood Memorial winner who finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby, is being considered for both the Jim Dandy and Haskell.

Elliott Walden, the president of WinStar Farm, which owns Gemologist, said Monday that a decision would likely be made on Wednesday, entry day for the Jim Dandy. Entries for the Haskell are taken Thursday.

On Sunday, Gemologist put in a sensational five-furlong workout over Saratoga’s main track, going five furlongs in 58.67 seconds.

“I thought he breezed as well this morning as he’s ever breezed, and he’s always been a good work horse,” Pletcher said. “But he was exceptionally good this morning.”

Gemologist won his first five starts before the Kentucky Derby. As a 2-year-old, Gemologist won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, a race in which he defeated Ever So Lucky.

Ever So Lucky, who didn’t quite make the classics, was one of eight horses entered Monday for Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.

Ever So Lucky, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, developed a thyroid problem after finishing 10th in the Blue Grass Stakes in April. He returned from a three-month layoff to win an allowance race at Delaware Park by seven 7 1/2 lengths on July 5.

“It wasn’t a strong field, but he won for fun,” Sheppard said Monday at Saratoga. “Hopefully, that puts him back on track.”

On Sunday, Ever So Lucky worked five furlongs in 59.38 seconds over the main track under jockey John Velazquez, who will ride him in the Curlin.

Street Life, fourth in the Belmont Stakes, will likely be the favorite in the Curlin. Others entered in the Curlin are Politicallycorrect, Reload, Easter Gift, Five Sixteen, Love to Run, and Morgan’s Guerrilla.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman

richard gorz More than 1 year ago
baffert has allways said paynter was better then bode, ill go with his knowledge
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Love the Curlin Stakes on Friday at the Spa. I hope Street Life gets hammered at the window. Close to even money maybe? I think entirely possible considering he's probably the most well known horse in this race and he's dropping in after two G1 and one G2 tilts. The result will still be the same, another late running fourth, third or second. This kind plodding closer burns $$. I have seen so many Street Life type, they rarely win. There is one exciting closer in this year's Curlin. His name is Easter Gift, the lightly raced 3yo son of Hard Spun (part of a special group of 3yo in 2007, easily the best crop of 3yo in the past decade, together with the namesake of this race Curlin, Street Sense and Rags to Riches, and below their level there were Any Given Saturday, Tiago, Scat Daddy, Circular Quay). After two eye-catching wins on off track, Easter Gift appears to be even better on a fast track, and second time going long is a great handicapping angle. Easter Gift will finish ahead of Street Life by open lengths. As for the Jim Dandy, my $$ is on Neck 'n Neck who has paired up two triple digit BSF. Blinkers added 4 races ago improved his focus in the early part of a race, but the real revelation is the jockey. This horse simply gets along with Leandro Goncalves. All 3 wins of Neck 'n Neck's 10-race career has come with Goncalves at the helm, including the last 2 dominating performances in a G3 and a first-level allowance against older horses. Neck 'n Neck is the only 3yo in this field that has raced against older horses, and he crushed them. Yet he could go off as low as the 4th choice. Great bet!!
PeterG More than 1 year ago
Jim Dandy and Haskell are looking like very interesting races to me. Definitely could be some value in those races.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
Winstar confirms Gemologist in HASKELL. Justin Zayat was correct yesterday.means Teeth Dog probably also in Haskell as he said. who becomes the favorite in the Jim Dandy ?
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Well if Gem, and TOD are both going to the Haskell we will see if Paynter is up to the Task, and my other horse Teeth of the Dog in there with my other horse Nonios. Love it.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
tony fortunelli More than 1 year ago
I want to say to those out there who took so much time last week arguing East vs. West horses and their merits. The sport is fortunate to have the horses on any coast that brings out fans to the track. The quality of the horses is great and spread out this year and for that we all that love racing can be thrilled. God forbid, only the Eastern or only the Western horses were any good. Or if only the European horses were the good ones. This diversity is good for the sport. Those of you taking pot shots at one another are only "puffing" and isn't really doing anything to promote the joy and well being of a sport desperately trying to keep it's head above water, especially with all the OTB. I am happy to see a great horse race, quality aside, any day.
Lucifer More than 1 year ago
Baffert is WHITE HOT, shipping East NO Problema.
mnwildguy More than 1 year ago
Three year old of the year? A strong case could be made for Silver Max so far. Doesn't get the pub that all these dirt horses do but has a six race win streak, inlcuding 5 stakes races and three of those graded. Just won the $600,000 Virginia Derby. Show me a horse that has been more consistent since the beginning of the year.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Saw Max at Colonial... mile and 1/4 - on the lead - over a course that was hock-deep! My vote goes in with yours... Lord, keep him healthy.
tom More than 1 year ago
yea but since he races on turf he'll get no respect come voting time.
mnwildguy More than 1 year ago
Which just goes to show you how biased the whole process is.
Ultimatehorselover More than 1 year ago
I think IHA has the Three Year Old category pretty much locked...
Jason DeLeonardo More than 1 year ago
This article is very misinformative. We talk about the Curlin as if it is a race that actually draws fans. There is no mention made of Hansen skipping these races to run in the West Virginia. The small field of the Haskell includes another horse named Le Bernadin, as of Monmouth Parks website. And frankly the fact that the Haskell field is small is ridiculous as 4th place in the Haskell pockets as much if not more then the winner of the Curlin. Makes some noise racing fans. We need stronger Grade 1 races!
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
I agree. I read an article regarding todays methods of training and breeding may be making 3yo weaker for the long haul. It certainly looks like the contenders in TC races this year are making a case for some very weak 3yo. Also, I'd like to see the runners up and other 3 yo more concentrated in just one or two races; there's very little competition for Paynter.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
There's another article about Hansen posted today on this website.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Absolutely false information: Winner of the Curlin - gets $60,000. The horse is now a stakes winner at historic Saratoga. 4th place finisher of the Haskell - gets $50,000. The horse gets an off the board finish in the running line. It is absolutely a lot more desirable to win the Curlin than to finish 3rd or 4th in the Haskell.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
Zayat Stables just tweeted Gemologist and Teeth of the Dog are in the HASKELL. guessing,mistaken, or scooped everyone ?
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
Justin Zayat just tweeted, "That's the word". if true, suddenly the Haskell just got much more interesting.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
dude where did Hansome Mike run last out?
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
march 24. injured.'fast and versatile'. last work super. decision just made to ship.
Ultimatehorselover More than 1 year ago
He placed 4th in, and that was the Vinery Stakes. I watched replays of all of his races, and it seems like the horse is either held back the entire way or pushed for the entire race and then runs out of steam....
Jason DeLeonardo More than 1 year ago
Just read that myself, I will have to contact my drf source who actually knows WTF is going on.
Ultimatehorselover More than 1 year ago
It seems like everythign is up in the air as to who is in the Haskell and the Jim Dandy stakes. I could have sworn that Teeth of The Dog was going to be in the Jim Dandy...
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
he is, unless Zayats are wired about who's in the Haskell (Gem,too?). probably 50/50. we will know tomorrow,if not later today.
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
EASTER GIFT... the next big-time Hard Spun.