INGLEWOOD, Calif. (June 14, 2013)—Paynter was an easy winner in his 4-year-old debut, easily disposing of Majestic City and six others in the $63,866 feature Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Sidelined due to several serious health issues – including laminitis and colitis – since winning the Grade I Haskell Invitational last July 29 at Monmouth Park, the son of Awesome Again and the Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizso was a virtual gate-to-wire winner for owner Ahmed Zayat and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The 4 ½-length victory by the 2-5 favorite was the fourth of five wins Friday for jockey Rafael Bejarano.
The defending Spring/Summer champion, Bejarano regained the lead in the standings over Joe Talamo. Through 31 days, Bejarano, who also won Friday with My Jealous in the first, Streets of Heaven in the third, Top Kisser in the sixth and Lilly’s Perfect in the eighth, leads Talamo 36-32. It was the fourth five victory day at Betfair Hollywood Park for Bejarano.
Worse than third only once in the first six starts of his career in 2012, Paynter established a slight advantage over Majestic City early, then kicked away early in the stretch and won with plenty in reserve. He paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.
“First of all, I want to thank the connections for giving me this opportunity,’’ said Bejarano, whose only previous collaboration with Paynter resulted in a 3 ¾ length score in the Haskell. “I had a lot of pressure in the first part of the race, but I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me. I had a lot of confidence in this horse and I knew he was going to win easily. We had a fantastic trip.’’
A $325,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, Paynter earned his fourth victory in what was his synthetic track debut. The payday boosted his bankroll to $989,424 as he covered the seven furlongs over Cushion Track in 1:21.86.
“He is just an incredible, phenomenal horse,’’ said Baffert. “I can’t believe he is back. He’s just a great horse.’’
Zayat, who kept fans all over the world aware of Paynter’s condition through social media last year, was also ecstatic to see the striking bay back in action.
“He is so courageous,’’ he said. “He’s a true trooper, a special horse. He loves to do what he does, which is what he did today. What else can you say? Thank you, thank you Lord.’’
Making his second start for trainer Ron Ellis after a layoff of more than 10 months, Majestic City, winner of the Willard L. Proctor Memorial and Grade III Hollywood Juvenile Championship in 2011, was a clear second. The 7-1 third choice finished 6 ¼ lengths in front of 8-1 shot Fly Lexis Fly.
Fourth in the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap May 27 in his first start of 2013, Majestic City paid $4.60 and $3.60. The show price on Fly Lexis Fly was $3.40.
Racing resumes Saturday. Post time is 1 p.m.
In celebration of Hollywood Park’s diamond anniversary, Betfair Hollywood Park will offer special 75 cent pricing Saturday.
General admission, programs, hot dogs and sodas will be available for 75 cents throughout the day. Beer will be offered at the reduced price for 75 minutes – 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Additionally, a prix fixe menu with a choice of soup or salad, main course selection, dessert and a glass of champagne in a commemorative 75th anniversary flute will be offered in the Turf Club. The cost is $75 per couple. Reservations can be made by calling 310-419-1601.
The fifth $150,000-guaranteed Pick Six Saturday –Presented by Television Games Network (TVG) – of the Spring/Summer meet will begin in the fifth race.
If the Pick Six pool exceeds $200,000 on any of the remaining selected Saturdays – which also include June 22, June 29, July 6 and July 13 – there will be Happy Hour food and drink specials offered at Whittingham’s Pub and the Betfair Players’ Lounge.
A bonus – a 2013 Toyota Prius courtesy of Toyota of Orange – will also be given to a single winning ticket – provided it was purchased either at Betfair Hollywood Park or through TVG.
The main event on the 10-race program is the $250,000 Vanity Handicap, a Grade I for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track. The card also features a pair of stakes for 2-year-olds – the $100,000 Willard L. Proctor Memorial and the $100,000 Cinderella for fillies. Both are 5 ½ furlongs.
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