07/27/2012 4:44PM

Haskell: Nonios could spring surprise at Monmouth Park

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Nonios will make his first start on dirt in Sunday's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Paynter and Gemologist are the marquee names going into Sunday’s Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Nonios could be the name people are talking about coming out of the race.

If he can successfully transfer his synthetic form from California to the dirt of the Jersey Shore, Nonios could be poised to pull off an upset in the Haskell, the major event of the Monmouth Park meeting.

The Haskell, being run for the 45th time, tops a 14-race card that includes five other stakes. First post for the marathon program is noon, and the Haskell, race 13, is scheduled for 6:17 p.m. The Haskell is the last leg of an all-graded stakes pick four that has a guaranteed pool of $250,000.

Paynter will likely be favored based on his performance in the Belmont Stakes, when he made all the pace but was beaten a neck by Union Rags in the final strides.

Gemologist will likely be the second choice based on his 5-for-6 record that includes a victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. He hasn’t run since finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby, a race from which he emerged with a bruised foot.

Nonios didn’t participate in those high-profile races. On April 7, the day Gemologist won the Wood and Paynter finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, Nonios was finishing third in a second-level allowance race at Golden Gate. It was his first loss, one trainer Jerry Hollendorfer felt shouldn’t have happened.

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

“After that race, I felt the horse should be undefeated,” Hollendorfer said. “His regular rider was [Russell] Baze, and I sent Baze to Los Angeles to ride for me in a stakes. I put a rider on him that wasn’t familiar with him, and he got the horse running too late.”

Nonios didn’t run again until June 3, when he won the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park. On July 4, in the Grade  -2 Swaps, Nonios couldn’t run down a loose-on-the-lead Blueskiesnrainbows, falling three-quarters of a length short to that Bob Baffert trainee.

“I would like to think if we had a better pace that day we could have won, but that’s just making an excuse,” said Hollendorfer, who won the Haskell in 1989 with King Glorious. “I’m not going to make that excuse.”

The big question Nonios will have to answer is if he can run on dirt. Hollendorfer said that Nonios trained over the dirt at Pleasanton as a 2-year-old and seemed to handle it fine.

Corey Nakatani will be in from California to ride Nonios, who breaks from the rail.

Baffert has won the Haskell five times, including the last two with Lookin At Lucky and Coil.

Paynter nearly stole the Belmont on the front end, losing when he came off the rail allowing Union Rags to slip through.

Baffert said Paynter lost a hind shoe in that race. Paynter has fired bullet works over the dirt at Santa Anita and the synthetic surface at Del Mar.

“He’s training great,” Baffert said. “He should run a big race.”

Paynter, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano for the first time, figures to be on the lead from the time the gates open.

“He’s a fast horse,” Baffert said. “He hasn’t moved backward. I think he’s just getting better.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher thought he had a great shot to win his second Kentucky Derby with Gemologist. But the colt finished 16th and two days later was diagnosed with a bruised foot.

Since he resumed training, Gemologist’s works have gotten progressively better, including a visually impressive five-furlong move in 58.57 seconds Sunday at Saratoga.

“I think he looks about as good as a horse can look at the moment,” said Pletcher, who won this race in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and 2007 with Any Given Saturday. “His breeze here Sunday at Saratoga was exceptionally good.”

Gemologist has the speed to keep Paynter within striking distance. Javier Castellano rides from post 4.

“I think ideally he’s best suited to stalking another horse,” Pletcher said. “We’ll most likely be doing that, but he’s won on the front end. If no one decides to go, we can be there.”

Dullahan is winless in five tries on dirt and is coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Belmont Stakes.

Trainer Dale Romans is hoping for a tighter track than he had at Belmont and a fast pace.

“I think the perfect scenario is we get a good, fast pace upfront and he can kick home sort of like he did in the Blue Grass,” said Romans, who has reunited Dullahan with Kent Desormeaux. “They say he’s training super [at Monmouth], he had a great work at Churchill before he left. I think we’re in good shape. I think this is his opportunity.”

Handsome Mike, who has not run since the Spiral Stakes, hails from the same connections as Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Mario Gutierrez rides for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.

Stealcase, who finished a neck behind Paynter when the two ran second and third in the Derby Trial, completes the field. Shaun Bridgmohan rides.

Bwell More than 1 year ago
Does the live feed work?
PeterG More than 1 year ago
That track at Monmouth today doesn't look anywhere near as deep and soft as it was at Belmont on Belmont Stakes day. The horses hoofs were sinking 10-12 inches down into the surface during the post parade at Belmont that day. Looks a lot harder and firmer at Monmouth. That could bode well for Dullahan. He can run on a dirt track but it has to be firmer dirt. First two dirt races I think horses have come from off the pace and won.
Pat More than 1 year ago
Woulda went with painter if this race was run yesterday. But having seen Javier smoke them yesterday I feel hi is ON....going with the hot jock..
daniel More than 1 year ago
Paynter should have been taken down for almost knocking the 8 colt off his feet in the Belmont.He should easily win this race.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
And Finally, Haskell day is here... Again a salute to Bobby Kulina and staff for getting this race back into the shape that they did. Hope the weather holds and everyone has a safe trip.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
odds likely rise on Nonios and Dullahan, and fall on Paynter, Gemologist and Handsome Mike.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
last night's haskell odds from London: Paynter, 5-4, Gem, 3-1, Dullahan, 4-1, Nonios, 5-1, Stealcase, 14-1, Handsome Mike, 16-1.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Dullahan : should finally run his race - lights out ! This colt I believe has looked the best in training over the last few weeks . Though the times may not indicate that backing . But non the less - this colt has been holding alot back thru-out training here . Gemologist has been looking razor sharp as well - maybe too sharp at this stage to really put out hi best run . Seasoning will be this Gem only down fall Sunday , taling off in the final 70 yards or so ! Paynter : just seems to be " Primed n Ready " for this event . Baffert has done everything to Perfection with this colt leadin up to this race . Will blaze thru fast fractions , and soul be long gone - while Dullahan kicks his gear in late and passes the rest of this field to settle for a good place finish ! The Gem will need this outing and should be a solid threat behind Paynter for 3/4 of this race - just to show that his seasoing is just below par at this stage . Look for the Gem to run huge in his " next outing " ! I am not too thrilled about 1 Nonios . Just too many track Analysis are eyeing this colt , and to me - thats normall a distraction ! ( Paynter - Dullahan )
KeenelandCapper More than 1 year ago
dullahan has no shot ...will be beat at least by 5 lengths prob more.
Jay Lynch More than 1 year ago
i agree dullahan wins for fun or romans
Jay Lynch More than 1 year ago
romans running for a reason.....if not he would stay on turf at the spa
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
Romans said, 'a win on dirt would raise D.'s stud fees". good reason to run,or no? I believe he also said Paynter is the horse to beat.
Morris More than 1 year ago
when i look thru that yellow brible & into that grey head, i see a teenager, thats wanting to be a grown up. he has the ability to be a grown up, but just cant quite, put it all together. if this horse ever learns to relax, in the 1st part of a race, close with his kick. its gonna be the day that all the gamblers will stand up ,& ask,. "who the hell would have ever thought it?"" " an ole railbird".
Chris More than 1 year ago
I will take the horse that comes out of the slow belmont. The belmont that everyone is putting down.. The belmont where my adonis came back and won, the one that street life came back and won and fivesixteen came back to finish behind street life,(thanks for the lock exacta)oh yah they all lost to the slow union rags by 20.
Wayne Haehner More than 1 year ago
you mean the belmont that has Atigun race today--he is still running My Adonis--i dont think he finished yet either Alphas effort today flatters Gemologist and Nonios is a factor--one thing for sure Dullahan will never win a dirt stakes and will be lucky to finish 4th here you cant close at monmouth when they soup the track--and last year it wasnt souped
KeenelandCapper More than 1 year ago
this is spot on!
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Today is Paynter's Day. I'm curious to see Nonios run if he takes to the track. Not worried about Gemologist. I believe Paynter is better than Bodemeister and he'll prove it on Sunday. Stealcase great exotics horse and Longshot
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
All Gemologist fans got what you wanted and Match race up front with Paynter now we'll see who's better, May the best horse win.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
Hahahaha it was a runaway caught the exacta cold, and Stealcase got third. This game is FUN!!! Paynter #1 3yo in all the land!! Suck on that haters.