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Rick Samuels

Paynter to Rehab at Fair Hill Equine Therapy

Zayat Stables' Haskell Invitational winner will leave New Bolton this weekend.

Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Paynter  will leave the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center Oct. 14 or 15 for Bruce Jackson's Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center in Elkton, Md., where he is expected to rehabilitate from a serious illness and surgery, owner Ahmed Zayat said.

Zayat, commenting Oct. 12, said the intent is to eventually return Paynter to training.

"We decided to be extremely cautious in his rehab," Zayat explained. "He is ultimately going to end up being in Kentucky for rehab for 2-3 months, but we want him first to rehab 3-4 weeks here, and then make the trip. We'd like to ship him there Sunday (Oct. 14) at noon, or it might be moved to Monday (Oct. 15) morning if we can't get the right van."

The 3-year-old son of Awesome Again  is expected to continue his recovery at WinStar Farm in Lexington if all goes well at the Maryland facility, Zayat said.

Paynter began spiking fevers after winning the Haskell and had been hospitalized at Upstate Equine Medical Center in Schuylerville, N.Y., since the week of Aug. 26 while fighting an infection of his colon. He later overcame a bout of laminitis in three feet.

After recovering from the laminitis, he was transported to New Bolton in Kennett Square, Pa. on the afternoon of Oct. 2 to be operated on by Dr. Louise Southwood, a leading equine intestine surgeon and specialist in the area of colitis.

"He's an absolute miracle, he has defied all odds," Zayat said. "It has been unbelievable peaks and valleys with him. He has won all his battles; he's so resilient, this is a horse I'd like to model my life on, the motto that one can never give up.

"Now I understand when they talk about Thoroughbreds having the heart, courage, and determination to never, ever give up or lose—he defines that," Zayat said. "I'm so genuinely happy he continues to recovery. This has been going on for us for a long time, monitoring the situation on almost an hourly basis."

The colt recovered well from his surgery at New Bolton, performed by a team of surgeons under the guidance of Southwood, who removed a large growth filled with puss and bacteria from his intestines. The colt has gained 11 pounds in the last two days, on top of 24 pounds put on following the surgery, Zayat said.

It is expected that Paynter's rehabilitation would lead to a 2013 return to racing, with the time at Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center being an early step on the road to recovery.

"I have a longstanding relationship with Bruce, he's had some of my best horses at the center before," Zayat explained. "I wanted to choose a farm where his team from New Bolton could continue to monitor him, and Bruce has an incredible, state-of-the-art facility.

"It is my wish and desire from God that he would be healthy enough to go back and race," the owner continued. "I'm so happy he's alive and well, the vets and specialists see absolutely no reason why he shouldn't be back doing what he loves. But I want to let the horse tell me he wants to go back to the track.

"Right now our first objective is to get him back to a familiar surrounding. We're putting him on a special diet to help him gain back weight, and our goal is to make him happy and comfortable, continue to monitor him, and be very attentive to his needs. He'll tell us when he's ready to go back in training. I'm not going to push him; we'll take it day by day."

Paynter, bred in Kentucky by Diamond A Racing, is out of the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizso. He has three wins and two seconds from six starts, with earnings of $952,224. Prior to the Haskell, the Bob Baffert trainee finished second by a neck to Union Rags  after showing the way in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).