08/31/2012 3:32PM

Paynter showing signs of improvement

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Tom Keyser
Paynter showed signs of improvement Friday at the Upstate Equine Clinic in Schuylerville, N.Y., where he is being treated for colitis.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – After some touch-and-go moments Thursday, Haskell winner Paynter was reported to have shown improvement Friday, according to his connections.

Justin Zayat, son of owner Ahmed Zayat, said Friday “was probably his best day” since Paynter had to be moved to the Upstate Equine Clinic in Schuylerville, N.Y. on Sunday, where he is being treated for colitis – an inflammation of the colon.

According to Zayat, Paynter’s white-blood cell count was 9,000 – close to normal – and the colt was eating.

“Everything right now is heading in the right direction,” Justin Zayat said. “We’re nowhere near out of the woods yet. We’re hoping by this weekend we’ll have better news.”

Zayat said the report from Dr. Laura Javsicas on Friday was “180 degrees” different than on Thursday when the Zayats – Justin, his brother Benjamin, and their father Ahmed – drove from New Jersey to visit the colt.

“When we were there, it wasn’t his best day,” Justin Zayat said. “He had his highest temperature – 104 – his white blood count was the lowest it’s been.”

Zayat said that Javsicas “thought it could be the end, if he didn’t improve” Friday.

When Paynter first arrived at the clinic, there were some concerns that laminitis, a deadly hoof disease, also could become an issue. However, Zayat said “his feet look 100 percent perfect,” according to a report he received from Javsicas.

Zayat said Paynter would run as a 4-year-old if he survives this illness.

“He’s no way being retired,” Zayat said. “We plan to bring him back racing if he’s 100 percent. If he survives, he’ll be the Paynter we all know.”

Paynter, trained by Bob Baffert, finished second in the Belmont Stakes, beaten a neck by Union Rags. He then romped to victory in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park. Two days after the Haskell, Paynter contracted a fever that forced him to be sent to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Clinic in Ringoes, N.J., where he stayed for more than a week.

Following his release from the clinic, Paynter vanned to Belmont Park, where he resumed light training before being sent to Saratoga on Aug. 22. He was scheduled to have been flown back to Southern California on Aug. 27, but those plans were scrapped when he developed a fever the previous night.