Paynter, winner of the Haskell Invitational and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes in 2012, is scheduled to make his first start as a 4-year-old in Friday's seventh race at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owner Ahmed Zayat, the son of Awesome Again and the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizso has been away since winning the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park by 3 ¾ lengths last July 25.
A $325,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, Paynter became seriously ill after the Haskell victory. Beaten by a neck by Union Rags after setting the pace in the Belmont, Paynter later had to have surgery to remove an abscessed area of his colon and also battled laminitis.
Paynter, who returned to Baffert's barn near the end of last year after recovering from his various ailments at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center in Maryland, won the 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi Award.
Created by Penny Chenery, the breeder and owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, the Vox Populi Award recognizes a horse “whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.''
A winner of three of six with earnings of $952,224, Paynter will be making his Betfair Hollywood Park – and synthetic track – debut Friday. The Kentucky bred worked four times over Cushion Track in May, including a 1:12 1/5 gate drill May 25. The six furlong work was the best of seven that day at the distance.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard for the Haskell victory, has the call in Friday's race, a $62,000 allowance at seven furlongs.
From inside out, here's the field: Ashtar, Jorge Carreno rides, 118 pounds; Paynter, Rafael Bejarano, 124; Dime Que, Omar Figueroa, 118; Charlie'sboywins, Vinnie Bednar, 118; Majestic City, David Flores, 118; Kate's Event, Julien Leparoux, 124; Grand Berry, Garrett Gomez, 118 and Fly Lexis Fly, Corey Nakatani, 118.
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