Making his long-awaited return to the races after surviving serious health issues, Paynter crushed an allowance field at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 14.
With Ahmed and Justin Zayat in attendance, Paynter proved an easy winner in his 4-year-old debut, defeating Majestic City and six others.
Sidelined due to several serious health issues – including laminitis and colitis – since winning the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last July 29 at Monmouth Park, the son of Awesome Again and the Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizso was a virtual gate-to-wire winner for owner Ahmed Zayat and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The 4 ½-length victory by the 2-5 favorite was the fourth of five wins Friday for jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Worse than third only once in the first six starts of his career in 2012, Paynter established a slight advantage over Majestic City early, then kicked away early in the stretch and won with plenty in reserve. He paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.
“First of all, I want to thank the connections for giving me this opportunity,’’ said Bejarano, whose only previous collaboration with Paynter resulted in a 3 ¾-length score in the Haskell. “I had a lot of pressure in the first part of the race, but I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me. I had a lot of confidence in this horse and I knew he was going to win easily. We had a fantastic trip.’’
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.’’