06/14/2013 7:16PM

Hollywood Park: Paynter wins comeback with ease

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Benoit & Associates
Paynter, under Rafael Bejarano, wins by 4 1/2 lengths in his first race since taking the Haskell last summer.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Paynter, one of the top 3-year-olds of 2012 who was seriously ill last summer and fall with colitis and laminitis, scored an emphatic victory in his comeback race at Betfair Hollywood Park on Friday.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Paynter led throughout a seven-furlong allowance race, pulling away from seven overmatched rivals to win by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:21.86. The allowance race was Paynter’s first start since winning the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park last July.

The victory set off a boisterous winner’s circle celebration for owner Ahmed Zayat and his family, who traveled from the East Coast to watch Paynter’s return to racing.

“That was majestic and miraculous,” Zayat said in the winner’s circle. “He was pressed the whole way and he pulled away. This is a celebration of life.”

Paynter ($2.80) led by a half-length over Majestic City on the backstretch and turn. The competition never got closer. Paynter pulled clear in the final quarter-mile to win comfortably, giving Bejarano his fourth of five wins on the eight-race program.

Majestic City held second, finishing 6 1/4 lengths in front of Fly Lexis Fly, who was third.

Last summer and fall, Paynter’s weight fell from 1,100 pounds to the low 900-pound range while he was being treated primarily for colitis in veterinary clinics in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. There were times when trainer Bob Baffert feared that Paynter would not survive his illness.

Paynter began to show improvement in October and returned to Baffert’s stable in late December. 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 on Friday.

“I knew he was doing well or I wouldn’t have run him, you know?” Baffert said. “You don’t know how they’ll do until you put them in the gate.

“I got emotional watching. It’s an amazing story.”

By Awesome Again, Paynter has won 4 of 7 starts and $989,420. Aside from the Haskell, Paynter was second to Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes in 2012.

Baffert and Zayat said they will consider major stakes throughout the nation this summer for Paynter’s next start.

Michael Scarpaci More than 1 year ago
you are a good man Bob BAFFERT PAYENTER IS LUCKY TO HAVE A GUY LIKE YOU TO TAKE CARE OF HIM GOOD TO BOTH OF YOU
Michael Scarpaci More than 1 year ago
yOUR ARE A GOOD MAN BOB BAFFERT PAYNTER IS LUCKY TO HAVE A GUY LIKE YOU TAKEING CARE OF HIM GOOD LUCK TO BOTH OF YOU
ty More than 1 year ago
First time I went to the track when there wasn't a graded stakes race. Paynter was the main & only reason to go on a Friday. There were so many people in his paddock area--I guess they were horse/media people because the attendance figures reported in the LA Times didn't go up as much as I expected--which was surprising given all those people blocking my view of the chiseled colt. Go Paynter & team!!!
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Best story in racing in my lifetime (past 39 years). Baffert, Zayat, Fairhill folks, Dr. Cheney, Upstate Equine, New Bolton....and all those care takers in the barn. HATS OFF TO YOU. Thank you Dr. Laura and Dr. Fraley as well. No horse has PAYNTER'S HEART!
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Baffert = genius !!
Dee R. Eff More than 1 year ago
And what exactly makes him a genius?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great run from Paynter, way to go boy! Another terrible ride from Leparoux! You weren't going to beat Paynter, but you should've finished 2nd easily aboard Kate's Event. You are so overrated
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Great to see Paynter come back. Hopefully he stays healthy and continues to race and win. Vic Stauffer's call was very good. I really enjoy his clear and concise calls. Wish he would get hired by a top track. Churchill's announcer is atrocious.
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
Ahmed Zayat said: "This is a celebration of life". That sums it up perfectly...
aaronrayk More than 1 year ago
114 Beyer for Paynter in this race. No joke.
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Terrific race call! Way to go, Paynter!!