Zayat Stables' Paynter, continuing a storybook comeback from near death last spring after winning the Haskell Invitational , will pack highweight of 122 pounds Saturday versus five formidable rivals in the 72nd running of the Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.
Paynter, sensational winner of a seven-furlong sprint at Betfair Hollywood Park June 14, his first race since recovering from the serious illnesses which almost claimed his life, will have Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.
Paynter's opposition will include Liaison, his stablemate from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert and a proven stakes performer; Kettle Corn, runner-up to Game on Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup; three-year-old Chief Havoc, romping winner of the Swaps Stakes, and the always-dangerous Clubhouse Ride, victor in The Californian this summer. Completing the line-up will be the speedy Batti Man, who figures to be prominent in the early stages of the San Diego.
Paynter, a four-year-old son of Awesome Again , was considered one of the best sophomore runners in America after finishing a hard-luck second to Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes and then easily capturing the Haskell Invitational. A variety of medical problems then had the colt near death for two months. Miraculously, he recovered and appeared to have lost none of his ability when he won last month at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The mile and one-sixteenth race is Del Mar's major steppingstone to the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 25.
The San Diego Handicap is carded as the eighth race on a ten-race program, with post time for the first race 2 p.m.
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