A year ago, no one was sure if Paynter would survive, much less make it back to the races.
When he finally did return, no one was sure if he could be nearly as good as he once was.
Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, the 4-year-old colt continues his
amazing comeback when he faces six of the top older horses in the
country including Successful Dan, Fort Larned and Flat Out in the 60th
running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward.
an incredible story," said Paynter's Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert,
of Paynter, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. "It was so
emotional, what he went through for two months. Now that he's back, I
really want him to take on the big guys, because he's a big guy
saga began when he developed a fever shortly after his 3 ¾-length
victory in the 2012 Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. On
the heels of that came colitis, followed by laminitis in three of his
four hoofs. Aggressively treated, the colt survived both
life-threatening illnesses but dropped to under 1,000 pounds. The
decision was made to remove a section of his intestines, after which
things began to turn around. On December 29, Paynter returned to
Baffert's barn in California.
we got him at New Bolton [where the surgery was performed], he was 100
percent after the [section of] intestine was removed," said Baffert. "We
went real easy on him when he first came in. Some horses, when they
come in off a layoff, pick it up right away. The first 60 days with him
"Then, all of a sudden," added Baffert, "he was, 'I'm ready to go full contact.'"
June 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Paynter zipped to a 4 ½-length
victory in a seven-furlong allowance, earning a career-best 114 Beyer
Speed Figure. Six weeks later, he finished a gallant second, beaten a
half-length, by Kettle Corn in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar
at 1 1/16 miles.
didn't want to run him in the Pacific Classic," said Baffert. "The
Woodward is a great race, pointing to the Breeders' Cup. We're excited
about running him. It's a tough field, but he's tough."
Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Paynter when he leaves from post position 5.
older half-brother of reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, 5-1
morning-line favorite Successful Dan appears to have hit his best stride
this summer at the Spa. The 7-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal
rebounded from a fourth-place finish behind Fort Larned in the Grade 1
Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs to run a game second on August 3 to
Cross Traffic in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, a race he
was forced to skip last year with an injury.
doing so well up here; I couldn't be happier with him," said Charles
LoPresti, who trains Successful Dan and Wise Dan for Morton Fink. "He's
had his issues through the years, but knock wood, he's been as good as
I've had him. He's training good, he's doing good, he's had super good
breezes since then, everything's good with his legs, and I'm really
excited to run him in this race.
time that he has come into his own and really started to show the kind
of horse he is, there's always something that goes wrong," he added.
"It's been kind of tough at times, but maybe we'll shine this time ... I
would just like for everybody to see that he is as good a horse as I've
said all along."
With Julien Leparoux in the irons, Successful Dan will leave from post position 2.
front-running winner of the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic, has yet to
string together a pair of top performances so far this year. After
losing his rider at the start of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in
March, he was fifth when hustled back into the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap
four weeks later, and scored his lone win of the year with a 6 ¼-length
romp in the Stephen Foster.
off as the 6-5 favorite in the Whitney, Fort Larned got off to a slow
start, was wide around both turns and finished fifth, beaten 4 ¼
haven't lost any confidence in him," said trainer Ian Wilkes of Janis
R. Whitham's homebred. "He's had a different schedule than last year -
he hasn't raced as much - but the objective is still the same: get back
to the Classic. I think the whole division is very strong this year, and
this race is going to be as tough or tougher than the last one
Hernandez, who came in from Kentucky to work Fort Larned five furlongs
in 1:00.86 on Monday morning, will ride the 4-1 program choice from post
a half-length behind Fort Larned in the Classic was Mucho Macho Man,
who was eased in his first start of the year, the Sunshine Millions
Classic, then finished third in the Criminal Type overnight stakes on
June 14 at Belmont Park and the Whitney, in which he was 2 ¼ length
behind Cross Traffic.
certainly going to be tough, but he's coming into this race better than
he did into the Whitney, because we had run into a couple of problems
early in the year with a bacterial infection and so forth," said owner
Dean Reeves. "So this will be his third race back, and we're looking for
him to improve on that race in the Whitney, and hopefully it'll be good
enough to get that group of horses, which are a fine group, in this
Riding Mucho Man Man, 6-1 on the morning line, from post position 6 will be Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.
of Fame trainer Bill Mott will send out the potent pair of Flat Out and
Ron the Greek in the Woodward, a race the trainer won last year with To
Honor and Serve.
by Preston Stables, Flat Out has not run since taking the Grade 2
Suburban Handicap on July 6, his second win in three starts at Belmont
Park this year. The 7-year-old took the Grade 3 Westchester on April 27,
and next suffered his first defeat in five starts at Belmont when he
was third to Sahara Sky in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.
Mott had considered running Flat Out in the Whitney but elected to await the Woodward.
thought if he was doing really, really well going into the Whitney,
we'd run," he said. "We worked him and thought he maybe wasn't on his
game 100 percent. He has always had issues with his feet, and we thought
we needed a little more time for one of his feet. With that being said,
we pointed to the Woodward. We didn't want to skip them both."
Junior Alvarado has the mount aboard Flat Out, listed at 7-2 on the morning line. The pair will leave from post position 4.
the Greek, who finished fourth in the Whitney, is seeking his first
graded stakes win since taking the 2012 Stephen Foster. A runaway winner
of the Sunshine Millions Classic, the 6-year-old son of Full Mandate
was fourth behind Game On Dude in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap,
third behind him in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, and third to Fort
Larned in the Stephen Foster.
He will have a new jockey in Javier Castellano when he leaves from the rail as the 12-1 program choice.
Rounding out the field and leaving from post position 7 is Alpha, most recently sixth in the Whitney.
likes it here at Saratoga," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of last
year's co-winner of the Grade 1 Travers. "We thought we'd give him one
more shot against these horses."