Paynter Makes Triumphant Return

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Rafael Bejarano with Paynter Rafael Bejarano with Paynter

Paynter, whose near-death experience last year when he was stricken by colitis and a bout of laminitis following his victory in the Haskell Invitational  was voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s 2012 “Moment of the Year,” returned to the races with a resounding victory at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday afternoon.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Zayat Stables’ 4-year-old colt by Awesome Again was hustled to the front of the seven-furlong allowance race, put away a pesky Majestic City at the top of the stretch, then drew away to win easily. The Bob Baffert trainee covered the distance on the synthetic surface in 1:21.86 after setting fractions of :22.68, :45.67 and 1:09.56. Paynter was the 2-5 favorite. Majestic City held second, with Fly Lexis Fly third.

“First of all, I want to thank the connections for giving me this opportunity,’’ said Bejarano, whose only previous collaboration with Paynter resulted in a 3 ¾ length score in the Haskell. “I had a lot of pressure in the first part of the race, but I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me. I had a lot of confidence in this horse and I knew he was going to win easily. We had a fantastic trip.’’

To many it’s a miracle that Paynter survived the serious illness that struck him in August, let alone made it back to the races. After being in grave condition, his health steadily improved and he was returned to Baffert’s stable in December. The Hall of Fame conditioner brought Paynter back slowly, giving him his first recorded work in February, and gradually getting him back to racing fitness.

“He is just an incredible, phenomenal horse,’’ said Baffert. “I can’t believe he is back. He’s just a great horse.’’

His courageous recovery made Paynter a fan favorite and the #poweruppaynter hashtag created by owner Ahmed Zayat became a rallying cry for the colt on Twitter.

Zayat was  ecstatic to see the striking bay back in action.
“He is so courageous,’’ he said. “He’s a true trooper, a special horse. He loves to do what he does, which is what he did today. What else can you say? Thank you, thank you Lord.’’

The victory was Paynter’s fourth from seven starts. In addition to winning the Grade 1 Haskell he finished second in the Belmont Stakes, beaten a neck by Union Rags, and second in the Derby Trial.

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  • Tiznowbaby

    Yeah! Power Up Paynter!

  • blackcatlover

    I bet Dr Laura Javsicas is especially proud of her former patient today!

  • renee

    Outstanding performance! Mr. Zayat & son were most thankful and gracious in post-race interview. Then, suddenly, Mr. Baffert throws a jab/jab/left hook knockdown combo punch directly at Mr. Paulick. What the hell is up with this? Come’on boyz, it’s supposed to be about the horse!
    Care to elaborate and let the rest of us in on what caused this bad blood?

    • Larryburndorf

      Ever heard of twitter?

    • Knowitall

      Yeah, that was a really misplaced punch. Wrong ring. Shouldn’t have rained on Paynter’s or Zayat’s moment with immature battle with RP. Although Ray should probably send him a handwritten thank you for driving web views, too.

      As far as anyone knows, it is about Paulick’s incessant harping on Baffert sudden horse deaths, and TwitWars, but it certainly feels like there is more to the stories?

  • Tiznowbaby

    Also, shout out for the call of the race. Emotional.

  • nu-fan

    I still remember, as most of you do as well, how we watched for updates on Paynter’s recovery. Seems so long ago now, doesn’t it? Mr. Zayat was so gracious in keeping us informed and it is so wonderful to have seen this event unfold, the way it did, today.

  • Cyn

    Count me as cynical. Horse recovered from something sinister.

    • Reality Check

      He recovered, that’s the important part.

  • Salad Shooter

    Anybody know whatever happened to Thorn Song?

  • HogHater

    Hope that all individuals who assisted in this horse’s miraculous recovery have been paid in full for their services at a fair price consistent within the industry.

  • Francis Bush

    Let’s hope that this return doesn’t lead to worsen lamnitis. Remember that Secretariat ran too much too fast and the result was death by lamnitis. How sad we see great stars perish from too much too frequent when more patience would have saved their lives.

    • Reality Check

      I’m not sure what you are basing that on? Secretariat foundered YEARS after racing. There is no correlation between speed and laminitis, otherwise non-racing breeds would not get it. Many horses become insulin resistant with age. Laminitis is often a byproduct of IR. Secretariat didn’t have the benefit of the giant leaps forward in podiatry that we see today. That said, even with all the advances there are times when they cannot be saved. I would guess that Paynter either did not rotate or it was very minimal.

    • Knowitall

      You think Secretariat contracted laminitis at age 19 from racing at high speed 16 years beforehand? Are you for real?

      Reality Check – that is correct, Paynter never rotated. Paynter’s acute laminitis (inflammation) was arrested and minimized by ice boots (used preventatively beforehand as well) and relieved by the casts placed on his hooves by Dr. Fraley with in one day of occurrence. As for Secretariat, you’re right, nutrition and weight management of older horses has come a long was in past quarter century as well.

    • AngelaFromAbilene

      Running to fast does not cause laminitis. Please, educate yourself for spouting such an utterly ridiculous statement.

  • Ida Lee

    I just saw the video of Paynter’s race. When the “caller” said …welcome back big boy and was obviously holding back tears, well I just lost it. I remember so many of us crying bitter tears for this great young athlete and now look at him. Wow…what a way to start my day!!

    • RedShoesGirl

      i thought i heard those tears in his voice too. how wonderfully emotional!

  • Mimi Hunter

    I really never expected him to come back all the way. This is so great to see. Connections have all been rewarded for not giving up on him – even when it looked so bleak. A real bright spot.

  • Convene

    This is just plain nice! What a great reward to his connections for doing right by him all the way – and a great testimonial to the courage and character of this terrific horse.

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