Paynter (near): just pipped by now-retired Union Rags in Belmont StakesPICTURE: getty images
Baffert targets sixth Haskell win with Paynter
Preview: USA, Sunday 11.17pm BST (live on ATR)
Monmouth Park: Haskell Invitational (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo
BOB BAFFERT, who recorded his own personal Triple Crown of narrow defeats earlier this year, bids for some lavish compensation on Sunday when Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter (Rafael Bejarano) bids for the Haskell.
Monmouth Park's $1 million signature event has been kind to Californian-based Baffert, who has won the race five times - including the last two runnings with Lookin At Lucky and Coil.
Front-running Paynter comes here after being outgunned by the now-retired Union Rags in the final furlong at Belmont Park in a Classic that must have been painfully reminiscent of both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for Baffert, owner Ahmed Zayat and jockey Mike Smith.
The trio had watched Bodemeister, temporarily sidelined now, get caught close home by I'll Have Another (also now retired) in the dying strides of the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Smith blamed himself for Paynter's neck defeat at Belmont, the jockey castigating himself for having allowed Union Rags up on his inner.
Smith is staying at Del Mar on Sunday to partner Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Amazombie in the Bing Crosby, leaving Bejarano to pick up the mount on the lightly raced son of Awesome Again.
Paynter is likely to make the running from gate three in a six-runner field. "It depends on the break where he runs but he's the kind of horse who needs to be up close," said Baffert.
"The draw went pretty well - I'm happy to have a horse who is good enough to run - and run as the favourite."
Paynter's rivals in the Haskell are headed by Gemologist (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano), unbeaten in five before bruising a foot in the Kentucky Derby, and Churchill Downs third Dullahan (Dale Romans/Kent Desormeaux), well-beaten favourite in the Belmont.
The Kentucky Derby-winning team of owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez return to the fray with longshot Handsome Mike, while Nonios (Jerry Hollendorfer/Corey Nakatani), trying dirt after looking good on the synthetics.
Also on Sunday
Del Mar: Bing Crosby Stakes (Grade 1) 6f, AW, 3yo+ (1.30am Mon BST)
Amazombie has won seven of his ten races at this 6f trip but he was only third here in 2011 - and with only five runners, The Factor would be hard to peg back granted an easy lead, though he might not get one with Comma To The Top among his rivals.
Saratoga: Amsterdam Stakes (Grade 2) 6½f, dirt, 3yo (10.56pm BST, live on ATR)
Doctor Chit (Todd Pletcher/Ramon Dominguez) looks ready for this step up in grade after an easy Belmont victory, while Fort Loudon (Nick Zito/Fernando Jara) floored odds-on Trinniberg in a Grade 3 at the Calder ‘Summit of Speed'.
Currency Swap (Terri Pompay/Rajiv Maragh) returns to the scene of his Grade 1 victory in last year's Hopeful Stakes.