06/15/2013 1:53PM

Hollywood Park: Paynter fires 114 Beyer Speed Figure in return


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Paynter’s thrilling comeback win in an allowance race at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday was more than a brilliant performance. It was very fast, too.

Paynter ran seven furlongs in 1:21.86, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 114 in his first start since overcoming colitis and laminitis last summer and fall.

On Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert said Paynter emerged from his victory in ideal shape.

“It was nothing for him,” Baffert said. “He handled it really well.”

The victory has many wondering about plans for the popular 4-year-old’s summer campaign. On Saturday, Baffert was in no mood to discuss Paynter’s next race.

“There are a lot of options everywhere,” he said.

Instead, Baffert was reflecting on Paynter’s performance Friday. Paynter ($2.80) led throughout and pulled clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Majestic City, a two-time stakes winner in 2011. Majestic City was within a half-length of Paynter for the first half-mile but could not keep pace in the stretch.

Fly Lexis Fly, a two-time Group 1 winner in Peru in 2011 and the runner-up in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs last September, finished third in the field of eight, beaten 10 3/4 lengths.

Paynter was ridden by leading jockey Rafael Bejarano, who won five races Friday.

By Awesome Again, Paynter has won 4 of 7 starts and $989,420.

Races at Del Mar and Saratoga are under consideration for his next start. If Paynter makes his next start around two turns, the options include the $200,000 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack synthetic surface at Del Mar on July 27 and the $750,000 Whitney Invitational over 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Saratoga on Aug. 3.

On Friday, Paynter’s victory set off a boisterous celebration for owner Ahmed Zayat and his family, who traveled from the East Coast.

“I thought I was winning the Kentucky Derby,” said Justin Zayat, Ahmed’s adult son. “We thought if the old Paynter came back, he could do that.”

The race was Paynter’s first start since a victory in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park last July.

“I knew coming back at seven furlongs is a tough distance,” Justin Zayat said. “It kind of reminded me of the Haskell. He pulled away.”

In the weeks after the Haskell, Paynter became ill and spent most of the next two months in veterinary clinics in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania being treated primarily for colitis. During his illness, Paynter’s weight fell from 1,100 pounds to the low-900-pound range.

Paynter began to show improvement in October and returned to Baffert’s stable in Southern California in late December. His recovery from the illnesses was voted as the 2012 Moment of the Year in a poll of fans conducted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Paynter began jogging in January and had the first workout of his comeback in February.

“He went from being 99-1 to survive to 1-9 to win,” Baffert said Friday. “I got emotional watching. It’s an amazing story.”