INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) - Paynter won the $63,866 feature at Betfair Hollywood Park by 4 1/2 lengths Friday in his return to racing after a nearly 11-month layoff because of serious health issues.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who had five winners on the card, Paynter ran seven furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:21.86 and paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 2-5 favorite. It was his 4-year-old debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Paynter had been sidelined with laminitis and colitis since winning the $1 million Haskell Invitational last July 29 at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. He also finished second in last year's Belmont Stakes.
Paynter became seriously ill after the Haskell and had surgery to remove an abscessed area of his colon. He returned to Baffert's barn late last year after recovering from his ailments.
``He is just an incredible, phenomenal horse,'' Baffert said. ``I can't believe he is back.''
Owner Ahmed Zayat, who kept fans all over the world aware of Paynter's condition through social media last year, was also ecstatic.
``He is so courageous,'' he said. ``He's a true trooper, a special horse. He loves to do what he does, which is what he did today.''
Paynter had been worse than third just once in the first six starts of his career last year before falling ill.
``I had a lot of confidence in this horse and I knew he was going to win easily,'' Bejarano said. ``We had a fantastic trip.''
Paynter earned his fourth career win in his synthetic track debut and has earnings of $989,424.
Majestic City returned $4.60 and $3.60, while Fly Lexis Fly was another 6 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.