Paynter Heading to Belmont, Much Improved

Haskell winner has recovered from a fever and it is hoped he can make the Travers.

Zayat Stables' Paynter , winner of the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), is scheduled to arrive at John Terranova's barn at Belmont Park Friday Aug. 10, where he will be pointed for the Travers Stakes (gr. I) if he trains well and continues to show improvement after coming down with a fever two days after the Haskell, owner Ahmed Zayat told The Blood-Horse.

Zayat vehemently denied any rumors or innuendos that Paynter's condition has been kept a secret, and that the colt's recent visit to the Mid-Atlantic veterinary clinic in New Jersey was merely for precaution due to the fact that there was no one to care for him at Monmouth Park other than his groom.

Trainer Bob Baffert was in Del Mar and assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes had to return to California after it was decided to keep the son of Awesome Again  on the East Coast rather than risk shipping him back home. He had been stabled in Kelly Breen's barn at Monmouth since his arrival.

"Bob wanted to ship him back immediately to train here, because he had other horses he was planning on running on Travers weekend," said Zayat, who has been vacationing in Del Mar with his family. "He wanted to supervise the horse's training himself. He had a plane booked before the Haskell.

"(Paynter) came out of the race unreal; bucking and happy. The Haskell took nothing out of him. Bob got a phone call Tuesday that the horse had spiked a fever of 102. He told me we want to be very cautious, because you can't ship a horse with a fever. Two hours later, he received another call saying the fever was down to 100 and he was alert and kicking. But with Jimmy gone, Bob was uncomfortable leaving him there with just his groom. He said, 'Let's find a place to send him where he can be under supervision in case he needs fluids and antibiotics.'"

It was decided to send him to the Mid-Atlantic clinic, which is located about 30 minutes from Monmouth and is one of the top facilities in the state. Zayat said the reason he didn't field questions from the media at the time was because he was at Disneyland with his family.

"The vet at the clinic was terrific," Zayat said. "He called me three times a day with updates. He said the colt looked like he hadn't even raced. You could tell he really cared and wanted to keep us informed. There was no secret that we sent him there. Between Bob, (son) Justin, and myself, we've been tweeting constantly providing updates. Bob told the world about the fever and not shipping back to California. He said he was improving every day.

"We had a Tex Sutton plane booked to fly him back here, but the flight was canceled. We tried to arrange another flight the following week on Fed Ex, but Bob said it was getting too late and we should just ship to Saratoga. But with a lot of rain forecast up there, he decided to just ship to Terranova's barn at Belmont. He had been stabled there for the Belmont Stakes.

"That's the whole story. We just were being cautious and making sure he didn't develop an infection, so we put him on antibiotics. Right now, he is sound, happy, and healthy, and hopefully we dodged a bullet. He should arrive at Belmont at 11 o'clock on Friday. We'll see how he acts and acclimates, and then decide if we can make the Travers or not. If we can, he'll ship to Saratoga. Our only concern is to have a healthy horse. Do we want to make the Travers? Of course; why wouldn't I? He's the best 3-year-old in training and he'll relish the mile and a quarter. But the horse will come first. There are plenty of other races. This is a once-in-a-lifetime horse and I'm not going to risk ruining him trying to make the Travers."

In addition to his Haskell victory, Paynter finished second, beaten a neck, in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and was second in the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) in the slop.