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Paynter: 2012 Horse Of The Year

I would like to preface this blog by stating to my readers that I apologize for my absence. I had to take care of some personal things, and I am still going through some stuff, so that is why I have not blogged for a bit. I like to write for this site, and I didn’t want my readers to think I fell off the face of the earth, so I am going to make an effort to write more.

That being said, I am back with another blog about my favorite sport, horse racing. As the sport is nearing its Breeder’s Cup Championship weekend which takes place at Santa Anita Race Course on November 2-3, 2012, I will be writing a few blogs about the sport. Right before the big weekend, I will write a two part preview of the 2 day event.

[adinserter block=”2″]If you look on the calendar, Election Day is the following Tuesday after the Breeder’s Cup. By now, we all have either watched a debate, or we have seen a million ads.

Well, Breeder’s Cup weekend is the weekend where Eclipse Award candidates make their cases to Eclipse Award voters. In other words, Championship weekend are the horses’ debates and ads all rolled up into one. Some top horses running in various races are My Miss Aurelia (Ladies Classic), Jaycito (Marathon), Wise Dan (Mile), Game On Dude (Classic) , Awesome Feather (Ladies Classic) , and Shanghai Bobby (Juvenile). These horses that are being pointed to the Breeder’s Cup are the best of the best.

Depending on how things shake out in the Breeder’s Cup, and looking back at the rest of the year, one of these horses could win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. Even retired three year old I’ll Have Another who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, the Santa Anita Derby, and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in 2012 could be voted Horse of the Year depending on the results of Breeder’s Cup weekend.

However, I am going to talk about a horse that if I were the SOLE voter of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, this horse would be the winner. I am talking about a horse that has so much class, guts, and a willingness to fight that it does not matter to me what any other horse has done on the track. This horse’s story of survival is the story of the year, and his ability to beat not one, but two life threatening illness makes him my Horse of the Year for 2012.

The horse is 2012 Haskell winner and 2012 Belmont Stakes runner up Paynter.

Paynter was foaled (born) on March 4, 2009, and is a son of Awesome Again (sire). Tizso, Paynter’s dam (mother), is a full sister to 2000 Horse of the Year, Tiznow (only horse to win the Breeder’s Cup Classic back to back in 2000-01). He is owned by Zayat Stables, which is located in New Jersey. Ahmed Zayat is the owner, and his sons help run the operation. His son, Justin, is the Farm Manager. Paynter is trained by the great Bob Baffert.

The Zayats have had excellent horses in their stables such as sprinter Zensational, 2009 Kentucky Derby runner up PioneeroftheNile, 2010 Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya, and most recently the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner up Bodemeister. They have Jaycito running in the BC Marathon, and a very good up and coming two year old in Z Big Apple.

Paynter broke his maiden (wins for the first time) on February 18, 2012 at Santa Anita in a 5 1/2 furlong (1/8th of a mile) Maiden Special Weight race by 4 1/2 lengths. It was his debut race. That is a nice way to start a career, even if he didn’t race as a two year old.

Let’s examine the other highlights of Paynter’s career. One was his second place finish behind Hierro in the 2012 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial at Churchill Downs which took a week before the Kentucky Derby. Paynter won an allowance race on the 2012 Preakness under card. Paynter then, after leading most of the way, wound up 2nd to Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes.

It is after this highlight in Paynter’s career where his story takes a very ominous turn.

After a bit of a break, Paynter’s stablemate, Bodemeister was pointed to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ. for 3 year-olds. Paynter was headed for another race as his connections, Bob Baffert and Zayat Stables who owned both horses, did not want to run them against each other at that point.

Unfortunately, about a couple of weeks before the Haskell, it was discovered that Bodemeister had picked up a virus that had been going through Baffert’s barn. Somehow, Paynter had avoided the bug, so Bodemeister was scratched, and Paynter went to the Haskell instead. On a side note, Bodemeister developed a shoulder injury which involved some nerves, and had to retire.

Paynter faced a field of 5 others, including Triple Crown race participants Dullahan and Gemologist. Gemologist went to the front immediately, and Paynter was a little headstrong when he got into traffic. Gemologist lead almost all the way down the backstretch until the far turn when Paynter got along side him, and just blew him off the track. A nice horse named Nonios tried to take a shot at an upset, but Paynter was just too good, and won by about 3 1/2 lengths.

I was in awe. What a horse. I loved Paynter already, but I was just amazed. I figured on to the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, also known as the “Mid-summer Derby.” Paynter was scheduled to go back to California the next day or two after the Haskell which took place on July 29, 2012.

Unfortunately, Paynter has yet to return to sunny California.

About a day or two after the Haskell, Paynter came down with a slight fever and diarrhea. Baffert was still in California, so an assistant was there taking care of Paynter along with Justin Zayat, the farm manager for Zayat Stables. Paynter was taken to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in Ringoes, N.J.for two weeks due to his illness, as his connections thought it was a bout of pneumonia. This illness also caused him to skip the vaunted Travers Stakes.

However, Paynter eventually got over the illness, or so his connections thought, and was returned to training at Belmont Park. He was then shipped to Saratoga, and even though the Travers came up too quick, his connections aimed for the Pennsylvania Derby on September 22, 2012.

Sadly, on August 26, 2012, Paynter’s fight for his life began when he once again spiked a very high fever. He was taken to Upstate Equine Medical Center in Schuylerville, N.Y., which is about 9 miles from Saratoga Racecourse where Paynter was training. Dr. Mark Cheney diagnosed the Haskell winner as having colitis, which is inflammation of the colon.

Colitis is a very serious illness, and is often deadly when horses get it. The illness nearly took the life of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and it killed a daughter of his from his first crop, a brilliant filly named Landaluce.

When horses get this condition, as Dr. Cheney said, veterinarians have to watch out for founder (lameness ). The dreaded laminitis is what the vets had to watch for with horses ill with colitis.

Laminitis is a deadly hoof disease. It is when the laminae (wall of the hoof) separates from the coffin bone, and the bone rotates downward. It is very painful. The 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat died from it, and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro succumbed to it, about 9 months after surgery on his shattered hind leg.

Well, not only did Paynter have a bad case of colitis, but he started showing signs of walking gingerly. It was discovered that he had early stages of laminitis in 3 out of 4 legs. He was put into these special boots for awhile.

One good thing about this was that owner Ahmed Zayat, and his son Justin Zayat were very open and honest on their twitter pages concerning Paynter’s condition. Mr. Zayat believes in transparency. What he means is that people connected to the sport should be more open to talking about what is wrong with their horses, or giving the fans all the information. I agree, but that is another blog for another time.

It was great to hear how Paynter was progressing. There was a time where it looked bleak. However, Paynter would not give up. Ahmed Zayat said that he will continue to fight the disease as long as Paynter was willing to do so. For me as a fan, it was incredible when I read updates on Paynter on my twitter page. The Zayats came up with trending topics such as #poweruppaynter, #prayingforpaynter, #warrior, #star, etc. There was a time where it appeared that Paynter was not going to make it, but he kept fighting. This period was an emotional time for Zayat Stables. For me personally, as I loved Paynter so much, I found the roller coast of emotions to be excruciating.

Well, as the weeks passed, Paynter’s health improved. The diarrhea disappeared, and after the boots were removed from his feet, the laminitis was GONE. However, something inside the horse was still not quite right, and it was determined Paynter needed to go to the New Bolton Center in PA (where Barbaro was operated on) for surgery.

At the New Bolton Center, the surgeons removed a 35-centimeter area of abscessed tissue from his cecum, a pouch in the equine large intestine on October 3 Soon after the surgery, Paynter was taken out to graze. He also was starting to become his old, feisty self. His condition improved greatly to the point where he was able to be released to a farm on October 15 to complete a full recovery .

On October 15, Paynter arrived at Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center. I am happy to report that he is doing great. He has gained 17 pounds in about a week, and is up to 938 pounds. He is squealing, and kicking. He loves mints. Paynter has a bit of a ways to go towards a complete recovery, but considering how sick he was, I would say he is a winner. To beat two deadly illnesses is quite a feat.

Of course, in January of 2013, the Eclipse Awards will be handed out to horses, trainers and owners for this year’s accomplishments on the track. There are no moral victories. However, I feel there should be some sort of an award for this brave horse, and his owners. If I were running the Eclipse Awards, or had a say, that is what I would do. I am just a die hard fan, so what do I know?

I do know that the Zayats should be commended for going all out to save this horse. They called experts from all over. I am sure there were skeptics, and I am also pretty sure there were people who thought they should have given up. Well, thankfully, the Zayats didn’t give up.

The Zayats were also up front with their followers on twitter. I really thought that was awesome. What I loved about the Zayats is that they put the horse first. The genuine love for Paynter was made very obvious through reading their twitter pages.

[adinserter block=”1″]Paynter brought fans together, much like the ill fated Barbaro. There are Facebook pages dedicated to this brave horse. I even met fellow Paynter fans. There were lots of people praying for the recovery of this horse, and are still doing so. This wonderful horse, and his story is great for the sport.

As I end this blog, I want to just say that Paynter’s story is simple. Keep fighting. It is so inspirational. No matter what happens, and even if events in your life knock you down, you have to get back up and keep fighting. He is my personal Horse of the Year just for not giving up, and triumphing over impossible odds.

Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

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Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-


  1. Hi Terri; I have been following the tweets for A.Zayet since the first day. I do not tweet or am on face book so i didn't respond. But at the very beginning one woman wrote "give him a chance, do not give up on Paynter." It was inspiring to me as just a casual fan to witness the outpouring of support from you especially and others for this horse and you were also a source of comfort for mr zayet. Your blog was excellent and i especially agree with the issue you raised concerning transparency. There are so very many articles that appear on certain sites that just state a particular horse dies of colic, or some "infirmities of age" without any explanation of the circumstances and treatment that horse may have had. I feel like these people are telling me it is none of my business to be concerned. So Mr Zayet has really raised the bar and set the example for other trainers and owners to sweep away the secrecy surrounding this sport. As for Paynter, every day I read the tweets and cry at with first sorrow and now joy, he is so inspirational and God knows we can certainly use some positive vibes nowadays. I am glad you are feeling better, and i too have life altering medical issues that worry me but this saga puts life into perspective, if this horse can dig deep within himself to carry on well then so can i. Take care.

    • Susan,

      Thank you very, VERY much. First, thank you for reading, and thank you for commenting. I am hanging in there, but not out of the woods, but thanks for your concern. You are very kind. Yes, the Zayats are amazing people. Transparancy is needed. I think fans, and the public would not be so suspicious if horse owners and trainers would just come forward.

      Fans like us are very concerned about these horses, because, let's face it…..we love them. They are athletes like the NFL , MLB players we get attached to. I love Mr. Zayat and his family. They went through a lot this year. He is such a nice man. Class act.

      Paynter is a special horse….a total inspiration.


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