At least two horse racing devotees will not be rooting for I’ll Have Another to win the Triple Crown at Belmont Park on Saturday, and both live in La Cañada Flintridge.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be cheering for Paynter, a three-year-old colt who is Baffert’s entry in the race. 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 bitchin’ job on it, I’m going to name a good horse after you,’” said Baffert.
Paynter, a La Cañada resident since 1972, a longtime friend of Baffert’s and 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 at the Daily Racing Form had Paynter at 8-1 to win the race, fourth best out of the 11 likely starters. The heavy favorite is I’ll Have Another, who surprised the racing world by edging out Baffert horse Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Following those losses, Baffert — whose horses Silver Charm and War Emblem won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 1997 and 2002, respectively — decided Bodemeister should sit out the Belmont Stakes.
Even though Paynter is inexperienced, having not yet run a stakes race, Baffert said the horse named for a house builder 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 … if a horse could upset the Triple Crown, it’d be Paynter.”
Dave Paynter said last week he is not sure whether he will fly to New York to attend the race or host a viewing party at home.
Whether or not Paynter the horse plays spoiler on Saturday, Paynter the man said that he’ll clear his schedule when his namesake comes back to run again at Santa Anita, where the horse won its first race.
“I was there sitting in the box with Bob and he ran huge, and won by six lengths,” Paynter said. “I don’t get a chance to go as much as I’d like to, but I’ll find time to make it out there when Paynter arrives, that’s for sure.”