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Top Three-Year-Olds Work Forwardly For the Haskell

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Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter and Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Gemologist tuned up this week at tracks from coast to coast with bullet works in advance of the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational.

            The Haskell will be contested over Monmouth Park’s main track at 1 1/8 mile on Sunday, July 29, and those colts are among the probables for the 45th running of the race. 

            Paynter went six furlongs handily in 1:13.20 on Del Mar’s All Weather track on Wednesday and it was the fastest work of six horses at the distance. On Monday, Gemologist breezed five furlongs in 1:00.88 on Saratoga’s dirt training track for the best of 25 at the distance. 

            Paynter’s move was the third straight bullet he’s fired and it follows two on Santa Anita’s dirt track on July 4 and July 11, respectively. 

            “I don’t know yet when Paynter will ship and arrive on the grounds,” said trainer Bob Baffert when reached at his Southern California base on Thursday morning. 

Baffert, who has won a record five runnings of the Haskell and took the last two with Coil in 2011 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010, trains Paynter for Zayat Stables LLC. 

Grade 1 winner Gemologist has not raced since his disappointing 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby but he has been doing well since Todd Pletcher put him back into training. Owned by WinStar Farm LLC, the son of Tiznow out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard went into the gate on the first Saturday in May with a perfect record of five-for-five. 

Pletcher captured back-to-back Haskells in 2006 with Bluegrass Cat and in 2007 with Any Given Saturday and both of those colts were also owned by WinStar. 

Dullahan, the winner of the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes who finished third in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Belmont Stakes, has been training at Churchill Downs and is expected to make his next start in the Haskell for trainer Dale Romans and owner Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing. 

2011 Juvenile Champion and Grade 3 Iowa Derby winner Hansen, who is trained by Mike Maker and owned by his namesake Dr. Kendall Hansen, is among the 3-year-olds who are possible for the Haskell. The son of Tapit finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby.