By Steve Haskin, @BH_SHaskin
Zayat Stables' Paynter, who was sent to an equine medical center after spiking a fever following his victory in the July 29 Haskell Invitational (gr. I), will not run in the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Owner Ahmed Zayat said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert recommended against running the son of Awesome Again in the Travers in favor of the Sept. 22, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at Parx Racing, followed by the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
"Bob told (Zayat's son) Justin this morning, 'Tell your dad to trust me, this is a serious, serious horse,' " Ahmed Zayat said Aug. 13. " 'Let's not run him in the Travers; it's going to be very tight to get him ready. Let me do what's best for him.' I asked him (Baffert) a couple of days ago, 'If he's 80% fit, would he win the Travers?' He said, 'Yes. But the million-dollar question is what happens after that? Does he regress after being rushed into the race? Let's just run him in the Pennsylvania Derby, then the Breeders' Cup.'
"He (Baffert) knows I want to make the Travers," Zayat continued. "And he's 100% healthy. He's over his illness. The only question is: Is he fit enough? Do we try to make the race and go from there or be more cautious? I do micromanage when it comes to my horses. I like to have a say in what my horses do, but I have never not listened to my trainer when he tells me they don't want to run."
Two days after winning the Haskell, Paynter was sent to the Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center in New Jersey, where he was given fluids and antibiotics. The colt was then shipped to Saratoga Aug. 10 from Belmont Park, with Baffert saying he would monitor Paynter on a day-to-day basis in determining his Travers status.