Race of the Week 2017

Paynter And The People Who Powered Him Up


by Ryan Patterson


Let your voice be heard! Vote for Paynter to win the 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi Award!


After Bodemeister burst onto the scene with a terrific maiden win in which he flexed his muscles en route to a 9 ¼ romp, I sent a congratulatory text message to owner Justin Zayat. He replied thanking me, but informed that if I thought Bodemeister was good, I should wait until I see the Awesome Again colt he had in the barn waiting to debut.


The first thought in my mind? Yea, right; if you have one better than Bodemeister then you might have the best horse in the country.


It turns out that Awesome Again colt was the vaunted Paynter and regardless of how unbelievable Justin’s assessment sounded out the time, it turned out to be true.


Paynter boasted more potential than any horse other horse that raced in 2012. He showed us just how good he could be in the Haskell Invitational where he broke the heart of Grade 1 winner Gemologist before jogging away to an easy four length win that Monmouth race caller Larry Collmus called a “powerhouse performance”.


“We always knew Paynter had a chance to be something special based on his walk, pedigree, attitude and the ‘it’ factor,” said Justin Zayat. “But the first real indication was when Bob Baffert sent me a text message after watching him work at Del Mar which said ‘That Awesome Again colt caught my eye today’” Zayat told me. “I knew it was a great sign because Bob is rarely wrong and said something similar about Lookin At Lucky. I actually still have that text message saved on my phone.” Zayat said.


“Right after Bodemeister broke his maiden, we watched Paynter work in company with another Bob Baffert horse, Liaison, who had just won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. Paynter outworked him in hand without having had a race yet,” said Zayat.


When Paynter’s first race finally came around the anticipation in the Zayat camp had reached a fever pitch. After all, this might be the best horse they have ever had. Despite that, Bob Baffert warned that given his route pedigree and tendency to break slowly from the gate that he might need race. 5 ½ furlongs was far from an optimal distance, but Paynter toyed with the field.


From there, Paynter was thrown right into the lion’s den. Derby fever took over and Baffert recommended going straight from the maiden race to the Santa Anita Derby. Paynter would end up fourth in that race behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another. If not for a poor beginning where he went to his face out of the gate, he likely would have finished third.


After an encouraging second place finish over a funky wet track at Churchill Downs in the Derby Trial, Paynter turned a corner in his mind.

“He started coming to life, biting and walking around like he knows that he’s the best horse in the barn,” said Zayat. “Our next race for Paynter was an allowance at Pimlico where he annihilated the competition. Baffert was so impressed with the horse that in the paddock of the Preakness, while the focus was on Bodemeister, Bob is talking about how great Paynter did and that he plans to run him in the Belmont Stakes.” Zayat said.


And run in the Belmont Stakes they did. Paynter zipped to the lead in the Test of Champions and was narrowly defeated by failed Derby favorite Union Rags.


“Very few people know that Paynter was stepped on by Unstoppable U during the Belmont Stakes. He still finished second; that’s how tough this horse is. We thought we were going to have to give him some time off, but luckily Baffert explained that the injury, which was to a splint bone, would heal quickly and on its own.” Zayat said.


This was the first of many problems for Paynter. However, it ended up being a minor issue, as Baffert predicted, and the colt was back in time to deliver a powerful win in the Haskell Invitational. In a three-year-old division that was struggling to find a leader, Paynter had asserted himself as the best in the land.


Soon after the Haskell Invitational, Bob Baffert put in a call to Zayat Stables and let them know that their colt was spitting up on the walls and had a fever. He didn’t want to bring him home until he was well enough to ship.


“At this point, we knew that there was a virus going through the Kelly Breen barn where Paynter is staying.” Zayat said. “We thought he would just need some time and hydration after running so hard. Every day of training is so important and missing some time because of this meant that the Travers was basically out of the question.” Zayat said.


Paynter seemingly recovered and was soon back to training, but another call from their trainer let the Zayat’s know that something was still amiss with the colt. Baffert said that it was time to get veterinary professionals involved.


“We flew in doctors from every corner of the world, but nobody could figure out what exactly was wrong with Paynter. We knew it was something with his stomach, but the problem could not be pinpointed. It turned out to be colitis.” Zayat said.


Colitis is an inflammation of the colon that has an exceptionally high mortality rate. Most horses die within 24 hours after the onset of colitis.

Dr. Laura Javsicas, a noted expert in the field of gastrointestinal diseases and Dr. Louise Southwood of the renowned New Bolton Center worked in tandem to restore the good health of Paynter.


“My dad and I trust Bob Baffert completely, but once the horse left his care my dad took control of the situation.” Zayat said

Ahmed Zayat was the perfect taskmaster. In constant contact with his doctors, he oversaw the care of what Justin says is the best horse they have ever owned.


Part of what the eldest Zayat saw as his duty was keeping the racing public and Paynter’s fans abreast of the situation.


“@jazz3162 @JustinZayat Paynter update: Been a super day today once again. Eating all day. Happy. Very bright. Playful! No fever. Feet totally normal.” Updates like this one came early and often via social networking sites like Twitter.


“The biggest thing for us was to make sure that Paynter never suffered. We love these horses so much; they are our family. You don’t want to see your family in pain.” Zayat said.


Just as he had conquered the Grade 1 Haskell, Paynter conquered colitis. It seemed that everything was back to normal, but the courageous colt had one more bridge to cross.


“Things are finally looking up for Paynter, but then we found out he had laminitis on three out of four of his feet. Naturally, I feared the worst. We had worked so hard; Paynter had worked so hard; to get through colitis, and now this happens.” Zayat said.


Luckily, laminitis was found soon enough that it never became a problem. This is attributed largely to the heart of Paynter and the world class care delivered by his owners.


Finally, the fight was over for Paynter; he had won.


“Paynter is healthy and happy and that makes us happy. Our boy is back to his fiery self, biting at people and walking with that swagger that great horses have. He’s chilling as a horse and having a good time at Fair Hill Training Center.” Zayat said.


Soon, Paynter will begin jogging and galloping with Bob Baffert. The last time trainer and horse worked together they were poised to ascend to the top of the racing world. Against all odds, he will get another chance to do just that.


Time to power up, Paynter.


Let your voice be heard! Vote for Paynter to win the 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi Award!



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Older Comments about Paynter And The People Who Powered Him Up...

I pray he has a safe trip and knows how much he is loved, Paynter is such a Good Boy , he deserves so much happiness
Mr. Zayat tweeted that PAYNTER IS GOING HOME TO CALIFORNIA! They will be there for his arrival on December 29 to help him get settled back in his old stall and hopefully back in training soon! Joy to the world! Truly a great Christmas present for all who have held this horse in our hearts for the past several months.
up all the fibrinogen (protein used for clotting) in the blood, which in turn, allows all the blood components to leak out of the vessels and into the intracellular and interstitial spaces and causes a massive loss of protein. Paynter received multiple plasma transfusions to combat the DIC (which usually is fatal because the transfusions are $$$)
Ryan, great summary, however, Paynter suffered from four life threatening illnesses, if the cecal abscess is counted. There was the DIC (Disseminated Intavascular Coagulopathy that he suffered along with the colitis (It is always a secondary condition). In layman's terms, DIC causes multiple small clots throughout the body, essentially using
I already voted for #PowerupPaynter!
I voted for Paynter.
Great summary of Paynter's 3 year old eventful year. You did leave out his third life-threatening illness, the abscess on his colon, which once that was removed put him on the road to a return to full health, a real miracle! Dozens of FB buddies have voted for Paynter for the Vox Populi award, and in fact, were part of the 24-hour national protest over his not being included on the ballot. We got their attention and that little oversight was corrected. Paynter brought that "extra something" that has made him a huge fan favorite and makes him perfect for the award of "the people's horse"!
There was so much concern from Paynters fans-daily prayers-candle lighting-gatherings etc. Most importantly was that he would get better-winning the biggest challenge of his young life. Everyday I would check Twitter for updates, many times crying big tears, praying the Zayats would know when enough was enough, but Paynter would not and did not give up. His strength and courage were inexplicable. Oh, the power of prayers! Paynter is the best candidate for the Vox Populi Award.

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