Grade 1-winning millionaire Paynter, whose story of perseverance a year ago captivated the racing world, will begin his next career in 2014 as a stallion at WinStar Farm in Versailles, KY. Campaigned by Zayat Stables, Paynter is currently on track for next Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, and the popular Awesome Again colt is set to retire at season’s end.
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“When we set our goals for 2013, one of them was to get Paynter into the WinStar stallion barn,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar President & CEO. “I look at our stallions in North America today and I see real dirt pedigrees slipping away from us. WinStar remains focused on the Classics and striving to bring home stallions that excel at running around two turns and on the dirt. Paynter’s pedigree and race record epitomizes the classic American dirt horse. Who knows how good he could have been after running a 1 on the Ragozins in last year’s Haskell. I am elated we got him. He was our first round draft pick.”
Trained by Bob Baffert, Paynter broke his maiden impressively first time out at Santa Anita, winning a 5 ½-furlong maiden race handily by 4 ¼ lengths. In his second lifetime start, he faced next-out Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another and a field full of seasoned 3-year-olds in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (G1), finishing a respectable fourth despite bobbling at the break. After skipping the first two legs of the 2012 Triple Crown, Paynter caught up to his crop in time to make the Belmont S. (G1). He led at every call of the demanding 1 ½-mile classic before falling just a neck short at the wire in a runner-up performance.
Moving into the second half of the season, Paynter ascended to the top of the 3-year-old division with a signature 3 ¼-length victory in the Haskell Invitational (G1), earning some of the fastest speed figures across the board by last year’s vintage crop of 3-year-olds. Paynter recorded a 107 Beyer and a 1 ½ Ragozin number in his Haskell triumph in just his sixth lifetime start, setting him up as the likely favorite for the Travers.
In top racing form, it’s what happened next that would put him in his biggest and most unexpected race – the one for his life. Paynter was taken away from the sport for the rest of the year, while courageously fighting his way back to full health through a journey that became renowned inside and outside of the horse racing community. He gained overwhelming fan support, and his determined recovery was recognized by the NTRA as the “Moment of the Year” for 2012.
After rejoining Baffert’s barn at the first of this year, Paynter embarked on a 4-year-old comeback with a memorable 4 ½-length win at Hollywood Park in June, earning a 114 Beyer for the performance – his highest among six lifetime triple-digit Beyers, and representing what is currently the fastest Beyer at seven furlongs and third fastest up to a mile in 2013. Paynter also owns a pair of runner-up finishes in the Awesome Again S. (G1) and San Diego H. (G2) this year, and he heads into the Breeders’ Cup Classic as a contender after his improbable comeback. Paynter recently breezed a minute flat for five furlongs Monday, Oct. 28 in his last work in preparation for the Classic.
“Paynter looked like a monster and is back to top form,” Baffert said of the breeze. “He’s the toughest horse I’ve ever seen. He has a heart of a champion.”
By sire of sires Awesome Again, Paynter was a $325,000 yearling purchase by agent David Ingordo, marking Awesome Again’s highest priced yearling at the 2010 Keeneland September sale. He is out of multiple graded stakes producer Tizso, a full sister to two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and emerging sire of sires Tiznow. Currently, Paynter owns eight first- and second-place finishes from 10 starts, with earnings of $1,101,924.
“Paynter is a horse like no other. Win or lose Saturday, he goes down as one of the greatest of all time in my mind,” said owner Ahmed Zayat, “The fact that he’s even competing in the Breeders’ Cup is miraculous. He’s such a fighter and natural talent. Combine that with his gene pool and awesome race record, I’m excited about Paynter’s chances to be a leading sire.”
A stud fee for Paynter will be determined and announced at a later date. For more information about Paynter or any WinStar Farm stallion, please contact Darren Fox or Chance Timm at 859-297-1328.