Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Posts Tagged ‘I’ll Have Another’

The Miraculous Return of Paynter

Posted by Brian Appleton on June 12, 2013

In horse racing as with every other sport, events come and go quickly and once some of the bigger events have passed the fans are always looking forward to the next best thing. With the 2013 Triple Crown season now behind us and three new classic winners added to the ranks, American race fans have their sights set forward to the summer campaigns of our biggest stars. A 7-Furlong Allowance race for non-winners of three races at Betfair Hollywood Park wouldn’t warrant a second glance on most days to the casual fan, but this Friday marks the miraculous return of Paynter. Last year after I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister stole most of the spotlight on the Triple Crown trail, Union Rags had to duke it out with a brilliant and lightly raced colt named Paynter in the Belmont Stakes to finally claim his classic glory.

Right off the bat Paynter showed the racing world that he was a serious athlete by breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in mid-February by more than 4 lengths. In his very next start he finished about four lengths behind I’ll Have Another in fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and then returned 21 days later to finish a good second in the Grade 3 Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes. Returned to the track one month later, Paynter smoked an allowance field at Pimlico by almost six lengths and it was on to the Belmont Stakes.

The Belmont is where Paynter’s talent truly began to shine through. He seized control of the pace the second the gates sprang open and maintained a tenacious lead into the first turn and down the backstretch. When Unstoppable U attempted to move onto even terms approaching the final turn Paynter very decisively pulled a half-length ahead. Leading the field into the final turn Paynter and jockey Mike Smith looked to be in serious danger of losing the lead to My Adonis rallying on the outside and Union Rags scraping the rails on the inside. As the contenders came roaring into the homestretch the rally of my Adonis moved him onto even terms with Paynter. But Paynter refused to yield and courageously pulled ahead by a full length. It wasn’t until Union Rags snuck up on the inside and just managed to win by a head on the wire that Paynter relinquished the lead. In all but the final few strides of the 1 ½ mile event, Paynter held off every challenge and proved how courageous and determined he was. We hadn’t seen the half of it.

In late July Paynter returned win the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes in a romp. He was now a legitimate and highly respected colt with a bright and promising future. But the best laid plans went seriously awry. After winning the Haskell, Paynter spiked a fever that knocked him out of consideration for the Travers Stakes. He was sent to a clinic to determine the cause and was diagnosed with a serious case of Colitis. On September 4th, 2012 the terrible news was released the Paynter had been diagnosed with a quickly advancing case of Laminitis, a deadly disease among horses and one that claimed the life of famed Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The news took the racing world by shock and Paynter became the center of a well-spring of prayers and get well wishes. Owner Ahmed Zayat announced that three of Paynter’s four legs had been infected with Laminitis, making his “worst nightmares” come true. The next 24 hours were critical in the treatment of the disease and Paynter was monitored very closely. In addition to the Laminitis, Paynter was still battling his Colitis and as a result was suffering from clotting in his veins due to low protein. Several days passed with cautiously optimistic evaluations regarding Paynter’s condition, but nothing definitive was released.

On September 21, 2012 Ahmed Zayat released the heartwarming news that Paynter had beaten his Laminitis. His battle to live now appeared far more hopeful and while he was still weak and being treated for his Colitis, the fact that Paynter showed the resilience and will to live to beat Laminitis in less than a month speaks volumes for his stature and the skill and loving care he received during his recovery. Sadly Paynter’s woes did not end there. Just a few weeks later Paynter underwent surgery to remove a 15-inch growth discovered on his intestines. Once again he pulled through in good condition and remained stable throughout the healing process. By the end of the year Paynter had fully recovered from his Colitis and it was announced that he would return to training and attempt a racing comeback.

On December 26, 2012 Paynter was announced as the winner of the 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi Award after some serious campaigning by the fans to have his name added to the list of nominees. The same day he arrived at the barns of trainer Bob Baffert in California to begin the slow process of regaining his form. On January 17, 2013 Paynter’s recovery from Laminitis and Colitis was voted the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s “Moment of the Year” by the fans.

Paynter’s return to the track is nothing less than miraculous and is something that strikes a chord in every horse lovers heart. This colt has the heart and spirit of a true champion to go through all the pain and suffering that he endured to arrive full circle back on the track. His resilience and determination is a precious gift to the racing world that cannot be underestimated. Whether his finishes first or last on Friday, Paynter is a winner in my book.

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