DEL MAR (CBS 8) - On Wednesday, the Del Mar Thoroughbread Club begins its 76th season.
For the next seven weeks, over 2,000 thoroughbreds will be stabled at Del Mar, many of them well-bred and headed for prestigious stakes races. But only one has earned the right to be called "The Miracle Horse."
At age three, two days after winning a million-dollar race in New Jersey, three-year-old Paynter was on his way to super stardom. Two weeks later, he was at death's door. First, he spiked a fever and developed colitis.
"That's not a good sign for a horse. Usually it's one way trip to the clinic." Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said.
Paynter spent the next two months, under 24-hour veterinary care.
"And during those two months we kept getting the word every day, 'Well if he doesn't make it tonight, we might have to put him down,'" Bob said.
Then, things took a turn for the worse for Paynter.
"He started getting a touch of laminitis in his feet, which is really, really bad," Bob said.
Surgery was performed on Paynter to remove an abscess in his stomach and then he began his long road back to recovery.
Paynter started back in training last December. On June 14, almost a year after his last race, Paynter was back on to the track and demolished a field at Hollywood Park.
It was overwhelming for Bob.
"When he won at Hollywood Park, it was so emotional for me I wanted to cry," he said.
Paynter's next race will be the San Diego handicap on Saturday, July 27 at Del Mar. Meanwhile, he's hanging out in the backstretch, ready to take a chomp out anybody who wanders too close to his stall.
"He is a miracle. I've never seen a horse go through this that survived it," Bob said.
It's just one of hundreds of stories that will play out at Del Mar over the next seven weeks.