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A $325,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, Paynter earned his fourth victory in what was his synthetic track debut. The payday boosted his bankroll to $989,424 as he covered the seven furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:21.86.

“He is just an incredible, phenomenal horse,’’ said Baffert. “I can’t believe he is back. He’s just a great horse.’’

Zayat, who kept fans all over the world aware of Paynter’s condition through social media last year, was also ecstatic to see the striking bay back in action.

“He is so courageous,’’ he said. “He’s a true trooper, a special horse. He loves to do what he does, which is what he did today. What else can you say? Thank you, thank you Lord.’’

Benoit photo