07/26/2012 2:33PM

Haskell Invitational: Paynter, Gemologist draw side by side

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Barbara D. Livingston
Gemologist's post position draw may allow him to put early pressure on Haskell favorite Paynter.

If Paynter is deemed the horse to beat in Sunday’s Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, then Javier Castellano, the rider of likely second choice Gemologist won’t have to work hard to find him.

Gemologist, the Wood Memorial winner, drew post 4, one slot to the outside of Paynter, the Belmont Stakes runner-up, when entries were made and post positions drawn on Thursday for Sunday’s Haskell, the marquee event of the Monmouth meet. The Haskell will go as race 13 on a 14-race program that begins at noon. Post time for the Haskell is 6:17 p.m.

A field of six was entered for the Haskell, including dual Grade 1 winner Dullahan, Affirmed Handicap winner Nonios, and multiple stakes-placed runners Stealcase and Handsome Mike.

Paynter is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won a record five Haskells, including the last two with Lookin At Lucky and Coil. In Paynter, he has a horse who made all the pace in the Belmont before being run down by Union Rags, losing by a neck.

[HASKELL INVITATIONAL: Get PPs and watch Sunday’s card LIVE]

Baffert, who has made a jockey switch from Mike Smith to Rafael Bejarano, expects his horse to be the one to catch on Sunday.

“He knows the horse really well, he’ll just let him run away from there and take him along as far as [he] can,” Baffert said.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Gemologist, won the Haskell in 2006 and 2007 with Bluegrass Cat and Any Given Saturday. He was happy that his horse drew right to Paynter’s outside.

“I think it’s perfect,” Pletcher said. “We’d love to be sitting right next to Paynter and keep an eye on him. He’s an exceptional gate horse, he’ll be able to get into the flow of the race quickly and force Paynter to make a decision.”

Aside from the Sprial Stakes, when he lost his footing at the start, Handsome Mike has shown speed in his previous races. Since he has not run since finishing fourth in the Sprial, he figures to be fresh and close to the pace on Sunday. Mario Gutierrez rides for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill, the same trio who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another.

Trainer Dale Romans lost last year’s Haskell with Shackleford, who came within a neck of Coil. Romans hopes to turn the tables with Dullahan, who is winless in five starts on dirt, including a disappointing seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Belmont Stakes.

Romans felt that the Belmont track became dry and cuppy on Belmont Day, a situation he doesn’t expect to be the case at Monmouth on Sunday.

“I haven’t seen that out of Monmouth Park the few times that I’ve been over there,” said Romans, whose horse will break from post 2.

Jerry Hollendorfer won the Haskell 23 years ago with King Glorious. He’s back for the first time since with Nonios, who won the Affirmed Handicap on June 3 and finished second in the Grade 2 Swaps last out, on July 4.

Stealcase, second to Jim Dandy starter Neck ‘n Neck in the Grade 3 Matt Winn, completes the field.