Bob Baffert has been quoted as saying Zensational is one of the most talented horses he has ever trained in his Hall of Fame career. The 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song will get a chance to prove it Nov. 7 in the $2-million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Owned by Zayat Stables, Zensational burst onto the scene this year by winning five of six starts—the last three in grade I company—and four in a row overall. The gray/roan colt scored in an allowance sprint on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track in May and six weeks later was thrown into the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) over the same strip. “The Beast,” as Baffert nicknamed him, took the seven-furlong event in wire-to-wire fashion.
Zensational, who was bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm and is out of the Phone Trick mare Joke, followed with impressive wins in the Aug. 8 Bing Crosby and Sept. 6 Pat O’Brien, both grade I races over the Del Mar Polytrack. An earner of more than $600,000 from seven races, he broke his maiden on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride back in February.
"This horse is good and he is getting better," Baffert told The Blood-Horse earlier this year. "His sire was that way, but not like this. I think this might have been the perfect genetic mix. He's strong and big-boned. He's special. And he's just three."
Victor Espinoza has ridden Zensational to each of his last four victories.
Bear Stables’ Fatal Bullet, runner-up in last year’s BC Sprint, could have the best chance of knocking off Zensational. The 4-year-old gelded son of Red Bullet has won two of three starts in 2009, including a victory in the Phoenix (gr. III) Oct. 9 at Keeneland when holding off Capt. Candyman Can by a half-length under Eurico Rosa da Silva. The Reade Baker trainee already shipped out to Santa Anita, where he had a strong five-furlong work in :58 4/5 Oct. 24, the second best of 74 that day.
Godolphin’s Gayego will also be backed by many after his impressive 1 1/4-length triumph over Crown of Thorns in the Ancient Title (gr. I) Oct. 11 at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old son of Gilded Time came from well off the pace in that one under Garrett Gomez for his first grade I win. Trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Gayego spent the first half of 2009 in Dubai where he won a group III sprint and was runner-up in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) on World Cup day March 29.
Kodiak Kowboy, winner of the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in April and Vosburgh (gr. I) last month, is expected to make the final start of his career in the Sprint. His owners, Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, decided only last week to send the 4-year-old Posse colt to Santa Anita for his first start in California.
The Europeans’ hope rests with Irish-bred Fleeting Spirit, a 4-year-old who won the group I Darley July Cup at Newmarket and has been runner-up in three other group I turf sprints this season. Fleeting Spirit was fourth to Desert Code in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a race he was also cross-entered in this time around.
$2 Million Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I, 12:10 p.m.), 3YO and Up, Six Furlongs (Pro-Ride) Horse, Owner, Trainer
Capt. Candyman Can, Rauch/Zell Partnership, Ian R. Wilkes
Cost of Freedom, Gary & Cecil Barber, John W. Sadler
Crown of Thorns, B. Wayne Hughes, Richard E. Mandella
Dancing in Silks, Ken Kinakin, Carla Gaines
Fatal Bullet, Bear Stables, Reade Baker
Fleeting Spirit (IRE), The Searchers, Jeremy Noseda
Gayego, Godolphin Racing, Saeed bin Suroor
Join in the Dance, Jake Ballis , Rashard Lewis , Reagan Swinbank, Todd A. Pletcher
Kodiak Kowboy, Vinery, Fox Hill Farm, Steven M. Asmussen
Square Eddie, J. Paul Reddam, Doug F. O'Neill
Zensational, Zayat Stables, Bob Baffert, Racing Stables