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Paynter wins 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi

Paynter's fight for life captured the hearts of racing fans (Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)
Paynter, the inspiring Haskell Stakes winner whose impressive 2012 season was marked with on-track thrills and courageous health battles, has been selected to receive the 2012 Secretariat Vox Populi, or "Voice of the People," Award. The award recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.

Paynter was a late entry in the selection process when racing fans passionately noted his absence from the original list of nominees. In response, Mrs. Penny Chenery, who established the award in 2010, and the Vox Populi Committee made the decision to add Paynter as a contender. As thousands voted in the online poll, Paynter emerged as the consensus choice among the three determining bodies -- online voters, the committee and Mrs. Chenery --edging out Frankel and I'll Have Another.

Paynter exploded onto the racing scene early this year when his maiden performance prompted owner Zayat Stables and trainer Bob Baffert to send the stunning colt on the Kentucky Derby trail. His thrilling near-miss second in the Belmont Stakes and brilliant performance in the Grade 1 Haskell Stakes further impressed fans and racing analysts, but it has been his tenacious battles with health issues, including laminitis, and Zayat Stables' continued updates of his progress through social media that captured the attention of the racing community and fans all over the world.

Laminitis is a painful disease that attacks the sensitive inner tissue of hooves. Secretariat and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro both died as a result of this serious condition. Veterinary specialists say that Paynter was able to beat the disease, and it is hoped he will be able to return to racing in 2013 as he continues to gain weight and his health improves

"Paynter's popularity stems from his ability to battle and exceed expectations, making him the perfect choice as the recipient of this year's Vox Populi Award," Mrs. Chenery said. "After seeing firsthand the devastating effects of this disease, I am even more convinced that the industry must continue to diligently fight laminitis. The progress we have made to date clearly benefited Paynter -- a beautiful colt with a tremendous spirit."

Mrs. Chenery will present the custom-made Vox Populi trophy to Paynter's connections, including Baffert and jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Mike Smith, at Santa Anita Park on December 29.

For more information about the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, visit www.Secretariat.com, the official website for the legendary Thoroughbred champion. Celebrating racing's past to enrich its future, Secretariat.com is a comprehensive online source for historical information, photography, merchandise, and memorabilia chronicling the enduring legacy of America's Horse.

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