06/09/2013 3:48PM

Hollywood Park: Paynter to make highly anticipated return Friday

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Barbara D. Livingston
Paynter, the 2012 Haskell Invitational winner, will make his long-awaited return from colic and laminitis Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Paynter, who won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last July and then fought through severe bouts with colic and laminitis, has been entered in a $62,000 allowance race at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday.

Paynter is part of a field of eight for the seven-furlong race, which will be the seventh on an eight-race program. The race will be run at about 4 p.m. Pacific.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Paynter’s fight through illness captured the attention of dedicated racing fans last fall. Paynter was hospitalized in August with pneumonia and was later found to have colitis and early-stage laminitis in three legs. He underwent successful, aggressive treatment for laminitis but then had surgery in early October to have abscessed tissue removed from his cecum, a pouch in the equine large intestine.

At one point, Paynter’s weight dropped to approximately 908 pounds during his illness. Through the fall, his condition improved, and he regained weight.

The colt rejoined trainer Bob Baffert’s Southern California stable in December, weighing more than 1,100 pounds, and has been in training since early this year.

“It’s been a long time,” Baffert said Sunday. “It will be a lot of anticipation to see how he fires.”

A winner of 3 of 6 starts and $952,224, Paynter’s win in the Haskell Invitational is his only stakes victory. Earlier in his career, he finished second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs and was second, by a neck to Union Rags, in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Paynter set the pace in the 2012 Belmont but lost the lead in the final sixteenth.

Earlier this year, Paynter trained on Hollywood Park’s synthetic track. Friday’s race will be his first start on such a surface.

“I had him train there, and he looked good,” Baffert said.

Paynter will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano and drew post 2. The other runners in the field are Ashtar, Dime Que, Charlie’sboywins, Majestic City, Kate’s Event, Grand Berry, and Fly Lexis Fly.