Odds-on choice Zensational made it back-to-back grade I wins over older horses when he scored a front-running 2 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 8 (VIDEO).
Zayat Stables' high-strung 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song, breaking from the rail under Victor Espinoza, left the gate last of five in the six-furlong Crosby. But he quickly took control, sprinting to a two-length lead while under a hold on the backstretch.
Zensational maintained a daylight advantage through the turn, but Global Hunter, rallying along the inside, closed to within a length in the stretch. Espinoza went to the right-handed whip briefly and Zensational angled in and changed leads before drawing away under even handling.
"He’s fast. There’s no doubt about that," Espinoza said. "Around the turn, near the middle of it, I took a little hold on him. I don’t want him to go around there too fast. But then we straightened out and he ran again. He’s something. If I let him, this horse would run a :20 (quarter mile). He’s that fast. I’ve ridden some very fast horses. But this horse — just as a sprinter — he’s something. He’s special.”
The final Polytrack time of 1:08.57 was just off the stakes mark of 1:08.29 posted by Cost of Freedom last year. Zensational is the first 3-year-old to win the Crosby since King’s Blade in 1994.
"When he broke a little slow he was a little confused," winning trainer Bob Baffert told TVG. "It took him a little while to figure out what was going on. Victor said after 100 yards he was OK. He has such a high cruising speed but this track is demanding. But when I saw 22 (:22.02), I knew it would be OK."
The half-mile split was :44.50.
"I always feel nervous with a horse like this," said Baffert, who is pointing Zensational to the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). "I never thought I'd get another sprinter like (2007 Eclipse winner) Midnight Lute, but he's incredible."
Zensational has won three races in a row since Espinoza took over riding chores on the gray/roan colt. In his prior start July 5, Zensational won the seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) in front-running style at Hollywood Park . He has won four of six starts with one second while boosting his earnings to $429,300 with the Crosby winning purse of $180,000.
"He’s getting more mature and growing up more every day," Baffert said after collecting his first stakes win of the Del Mar stand. "He used to get a little hot in the paddock, but he’s got that under control now. I’m going to keep him here in California and get him just right for the Breeders’ Cup.”
Talkin to Mom Roo, with Tyler Baze aboard, nosed Global Hunter and Corey Nakatani for second at the wire. Delta Storm, who stalked the pacesetter early, and Hurry Up Austin completed the order.
Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm, Zensational was a $700,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old purchase in February 2008. He is out of Joke, by Phone Trick.
Sent off at odds of 2-5, Zensational carried 119 pounds and paid $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10.
Talkin to Mom Roo earned $60,000 for his grade I placing and returned $3.40 and $2.20 while completing a $2 exacta of $7.80.
Global Hunter, coming off a win in the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) July 25 for trainer A.C. Avila, made the $3,000 supplemental fee paid by his connections look like a bargain. He earned $36,000 while returning $2.40 to show.
Bamaha Breeze scratched.