Baffert, speaking a day after the race, said the swift son of Awesome Again out of the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizso sustained a nick on his left hind, but otherwise came out of the race in good shape. Paynter is scheduled to return to Southern California June 11.
“He lost his left hind shoe in the race,” he said. “I don’t know when it happened, but it must have been near the end.”
Baffert added: “He’ll go back home, freshen up, and we’ll look to bring him back somewhere on the East coast. Maybe the Jim Dandy (gr. II on July 28) – we’re shooting for the Travers (gr. I) with him. We have (Derby and Preakness runner-up) Bodemeister for the Haskell.”
Baffert said he emerged from the race in fairly good shape. “Second is still sinking in,” he said.
Paynter, who ran fourth behind I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in just his second start, dictated the pace throughout the Belmont but gave way to Union Rags in the final couple of strides to finish second. The bay colt is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who also owns Bodemeister.
"Is there a Triple Crown for seconds? I need a Triple Crown for seconds," quipped Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after the race.
"He was doing so well. I just feel bad for Mr. Zayat. The poor guy, he's been tortured on this Triple Crown. Turning for home, I knew we had the horse to do it and that horse snuck up on him there. He's still a young horse, still learning how to run. It's over. When you get beat, you get beat."
Paynter was also second in The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) and was coming off a front-running romp in an allowance race on the Preakness Stakes program at Pimlico Racecourse. In the Belmont, he finished 1 3/4 lengths clear of the show horse Atigun.
Jockey Mike Smith took responsibility for Paynter's defeat, saying he should have not allowed Union Rags to exploit an opening at the rail in deep stretch.
"(Smith) will probably take a lot of heat for that," Baffert added. "It's a jockey thing. He didn't want to give up the rail. But you know what, he did a tremendous job. The outside horse had (Union Rags) trapped. Johnny (Velazquez), you have to give him credit. He was patient and he just waited. He knew sometimes that happens in these big races."
Elsewhere, trainer Ken McPeek was pleased with the performances of his two long-shot runners in the Belmont and already has begun plotting ambitious plans for them.
Magdalena Racing and Mojallali Stables’ Unstoppable U tracked Paynter in the 1 ½-mile race early before tiring to finish sixth. Shortleaf Stable’s Atigun rallied from mid-pack to finish a close-up third.
At 12-1 for Unstoppable U and 20-1 for Atigun, both outran their odds.
“Our horses came out of the race fine,” McPeek said on Sunday. “We asked a lot out of Unstoppable U. He ran a great race. We'll look for a Grade 2 or Grade 3 for him, or possibly the Haskell.”
Atigun, McPeek said, is headed for Saratoga this summer.
“Atigun came out fine, too,” he said. “We’ll probably go to the Jim Dandy and the ultimate goal will be the Travers.”
Trainer Chad Brown reported Sunday morning that Street Life was drained but healthy following his fourth-place finish.
“He came out of the race in good shape,” he said. “He’s a little tired, but he looks sound. We’re just going to regroup and think about our next spot with him.”
Under jockey Jose Lezcano, Street Life rallied into tepid fractions, closing down the stretch on the far outside to be beaten 7 ¼ lengths.
“I was a little disappointed the horse didn’t show a little more interest early and naturally lay closer,” Brown said, “but he tends to be a lazy kind of horse. He just didn’t have good position early, and then lacked the turn of foot to really make a serious impact on the top three finishers. All things considered, I thought the horse ran fairly well. He put his run in; it wasn’t good enough.”
Brown was complimentary of Belmont winner Union Rags.
“Yeah, we lost a major player in I'll Have Another , and everyone was disappointed with that; however, I think the best horse won the race. Union Rags showed at 2 that he was one of the best horses in the crop, if not the best horse. I think he validated that again yesterday. I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the year. He’s not a horse that I’d be looking to run against if I had the choice.”
The Jim Dandy could also be next for Street Life, Brown said.
Trainer Dale Romans expressed disappointment following the seventh-place finish of 5-2 favorite Dullahan.
“I’m usually not that wrong with them,” said Romans, who predicted a win from the Even the Score colt. “I’m wrong about a lot of things, but usually with the horses I’m not. You can know your horse is doing good, but there are so many other factors that play into a race, and if the other horses are doing well it’s tough.”
Dullahan, a two-time grade I winner on Keeneland’s Polytrack, is winless in five starts on dirt but was a fast-closing third in the Kentucky Derby. Romans remains adamant that the Donegal Racing color-bearer is capable of winning big races on dirt.
“I don’t think he was handling the track; it was deep and cuppy,” said Romans. “I haven’t given up on him being a dirt horse. I think he needs it a little tighter.”
With Dullahan being successful on Polytrack, a stakes winner on turf, and Classic-placed on dirt, Romans and Donegal have many options to choose from going forward.
“I have no idea" about his next start,” said Romans. “We’ll sit down and talk the next few days. We’ll figure it out.”