Grade I-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 Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky.
Campaigned by Zayat Stables, Paynter is currently on track to compete in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, and the 4-year-old Awesome Again colt is set to retire at the end of the season.
"When we set our goals for 2013, one of them was to get Paynter into the WinStar stallion barn," said Elliott Walden, WinStar president and CEO, in a release. "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 1/2-furlong maiden race handily by 4 1/4 lengths. In his second lifetime start, he faced eventual Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another and a field full of seasoned 3-year-olds in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), 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 Stakes (gr. I). He led at every call of the 1 1/2-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 1/4-length victory in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), 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 1/2 Ragozin number in his Haskell triumph in his sixth lifetime start, setting him up as the likely favorite for the Travers Stakes (gr. I).
It's what happened next that would put him in his biggest and most unexpected race—the one for his life. Paynter spiked a fever following his Haskell feat and was sidelined for the rest of the year due to a severe illness and ensuing surgery on his colon.
The colt fought his way back to full health, with his determined recovery recognized by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association 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 4 1/2-length win at Betfair 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 Stakes (gr. I) and San Diego Handicap (gr. II) this year, and he heads into the Breeders' Cup Classic as a solid contender. Paynter breezed a minute flat for five furlongs Monday, Oct. 28 in 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."
Paynter was a $325,000 yearling purchase by agent David Ingordo at the 2010 Keeneland September sale. Bred in Kentucky by Diamond A. Racing Corp., he is out of multiple graded stakes producer Tizso, a full sister to two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner and leading sire 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 in a statement. "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."