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Paynter Works Toward Woodward Stakes

Zayat Stables' comeback kid had his final work at Del Mar before heading to Spa.

Zayat Stables' Paynter  worked seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5 at Del Mar Aug. 20 in preparation for his cross-country trip to Saratoga, where he will face a number of the nation's top older horses in the Aug. 31 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.

With jockey Rafael Bejarano aboard, Paynter went five-eighths in 1:00 3/5 to the wire and finished up on the turn in :25, according to Del Mar clockers, while finishing four lengths ahead of workmate Ranulf.

Ahmed Zayat said the colt galloped out "very strong"a mile in 1:38and called the work "awesome."

"Paynter's ready!!" tweeted Zayat's son and racing manager, Justin. "Watch out Saratoga."

"He's really doing great," trainer Bob Baffert said. "I loved the way he worked today. He was a little fresh last time (in the San Diego), but since then he's really trained well. He's an amazing horse. If you look at him you'd never know what he's been through. The Woodward is going to be a tough race, but we're going in prepared and just hope for the best."

The 4-year-old is in the midst of one of the most remarkable comebacks ever seen, returning from two near-fatal illnesses (colitis and laminitis) to establish himself as a major force in the talented older horse division, many of whom he will be facing in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward.

The son of Awesome Again Tizso, by Cee's Tizzy, made an auspicious 2013 debut June 14 at Betfair Hollywood Park when he easily defeated a field of allowance horses by 4 1/2 lengths in a sharp 1:21.86 for the seven furlongs. In his next start, Paynter stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (gr. II) and finished a strong second, beaten a half-length by Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) runner-up Kettle Corn .

Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano felt he didn't care for the Polytrack, and after discussing it with Ahmed and Justin Zayat it was decided to ship east and run the colt on dirt rather than stay at Del Mar for the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (gr. I), where he would have to face Baffert's big gun, Game On Dude.

Following the San Diego, Paynter turned in a pair of six furlong works, in 1:13 2/5 and 1:13 3/5, setting him up for his final drill before heading to Saratoga, where he likely will face major stakes winners Cross Traffic , Successful Dan, and Mucho Macho Man , the first three finishers of the Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), as well as multiple grade I winners Fort Larned  and Flat Out .