It keeps getting easier for the flashy sprinter Zensational, who cruised to his third consecutive grade I victory under Victor Espinoza in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Stakes (VIDEO) at Del Mar Sept. 6.
The 3-year-old Zensational earned a berth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita with the win in the seven-furlong O'Brien, a "Win and You're In" event for the sprint division. Sent off at odds of 3-10, he won ridden out by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:22.31.
"I'm just glad it was a 'win and you're in.' He won't run again until the Breeders' Cup Sprint; that was always the plan," winning trainer Bob Baffert said afterward. "I'm going to freshen him up. He's had two good races down here. That's what he needed."
Now on a four-race win streak, Zensational captured the Bing Crosby (gr. I) by 2 1/2 lengths in his last prior start Aug. 8 at Del Mar, and was victorious in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park July 5 before that.
Leaving from the rail in the Pat O'Brien, Zensational broke inward out of the gate, but had secured the lead from Talkin to Mom Roo before they left the chute. The gray/roan ridgling, getting out a bit down the backstretch, opened up by four, five, then six lengths into the turn while posting fractions of :23.10 and :45.37.
Talkin to Mom Roo and Nikki'sgoldensteed chased vainly, but Zensational, in spite of drifting out a bit on the turn, was in complete control under a chilly Espinoza as they reached the homestretch. Espinoza shook the Zensational's reins a couple of times down the lane as Noble Court rallied from last, but never even showed the winner the whip.
Noble Court, ridden by Del Mar leading jockey Joel Rosario, finished a clear second by one length while drifting in late, with Nikki'sgoldensteed and Joe Talamo finishing third by two lengths. Talkin to Mom Roo, second in the Bing Crosby, and Big Bad Leroybrown, trailed.
Zensational and Eaton's Gift, who won the Smile Sprint (gr. II) at Calder July 11, have earned spots in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Owned by Zayat Stables, Zensational earned $180,000 for the Pat O'Brien victory, boosting his career bankroll to $609,300. He has won five of seven races, breaking his maiden in his first start for Baffert at Santa Anita in February. He began his career in the Bill Mott barn, finishing fourth in a maiden race as a 2-year-old at Saratoga in August 2008.
A $700,00 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2008, Zensational was bred by Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. Zensational is out of Joke, by Phone Trick.
Zensational carried top weight of 120 pounds against his older rivals in the Pat O'Brien and paid $2.60 and $2.10. Noble Court, who made his first start since running third in the Triple Bend for trainer John Sadler, returned $2.80. There was no show wagering. The $2 exacta paid $4.80, the $2 trifecta $38.60.
Screen to Screen scratched.