Belmont Stakes: Horse named after local man among favorites
I'll Have Another may no longer be going after the Triple Crown at Belmont Park in New York on Saturday after his trainer announced the horse has tendinitis. But that may be good news for two local horse racing devotees.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who lives in La Cañada Flintridge, will be cheering for his entry in the race, a colt named Paynter. Also rooting for Paynter is Dave Paynter, the La Cañada contractor for whom the horse is named.
Baffert, who moved to La Cañada in 2011, said he was so impressed by the job Paynter's construction company did on his house that he decided to bestow upon him a unique honor.
"He built our home in La Cañada, and I told him, 'Being as you did such a [good] job on it, I'm going to name a good horse after you,'" Baffert told the La Cañada Valley Sun.
Paynter, a longtime friend of Baffert's and an avid horse racing fan, is proud to be represented at one of the sport's most prestigious events, the last leg of the Triple Crown.
"[The Belmont Stakes] is pretty doggone exciting," he said. "You've got 100,000 people just screaming their heads off. It's very exciting for me to have Bob name a horse after me, let alone a horse that has a huge chance of winning the Belmont Stakes."
As of Wednesday, oddsmaker Mike Watchmaker of the Daily Racing Form had Paynter at odds of 8-1 to win, fourth best out of the 11 likely starters. The heavy favorite had been I'll Have Another, who surprised the racing world by edging out Baffert's horse Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Even though Paynter is inexperienced, having not yet run a stakes race, Baffert said the horse has more than a puncher's chance to pull out a victory.
"He was slow coming around, we didn't get him started until this year, but he's just getting faster and faster, and getting better and better," said Baffert. "So he has a very legitimate chance in the Belmont.
-- Daniel Siegal, Times Community News