Baffert speedster will be on display tonight

A young star in the making will be racing at Hollywood Park in tonight’s seventh race, a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer ($80,000) for 3-year-olds. His name is Zensational, and he’s possibly got as much speed if not more than any horse on the grounds.

The Unbridled’s Song colt, a $700,000 purchase by Ahmed Zayat in February 2008, will face nine rivals, including the highly regarded Dark and Deep, who broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths for trainer Brian Koriner on May 6 at Hollywood Park. Also in the field is the Eoin Harty-trained Best Mon, who won at second asking by 1 1/2 lengths at Hollywood Park on May 2.

Zensational, who’ll be ridden by Victor Espinoza, finished fourth in his career debut on Aug. 6 at Saratoga under the tutelage of Bill Mott. He was then shipped west and put under the care of Bob Baffert, who watched as the speedball sped to a 3 3/4-length maiden score at Santa Anita on Feb. 21, running the six furlongs in a swift 1:08 3/5.

Wanting to find out just what he had and to see how far Zensational would carry his speed, Baffert tried him in a one-mile, $80,000 optional claimer at Santa Anita on March 27. It didn’t work. He opened an early 10-length lead down the backside, eventually blowing a five-length lead in the stretch and finishing second as the 1-5 favorite.

Baffert says he’s been able to harness the colt’s speed somewhat since then and has cut him back to 6 1/2 furlongs tonight. How high is Baffert on the colt? Well, the man who saddled Midnight Lute for back-to-back victories in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint told the Daily Racing Form he could be one of the best sprinters in America this year.

Could Zensational give Baffert three consecutive Breeders’ Cup Sprint victories on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita? Well, it’s a little early to predict something like that. But the colt has the bloodlines, the talent and the trainer to make it happen. It will be interesting to see how he performs tonight.

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