07/09/2009 11:00PM

Well Deserved is maturing quickly

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Michael Burns
Well Deserved figures to be favored to stay unbeaten in the Landaluce.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The leap in ability the filly Well Deserved made from a maiden win on May 1 to the Cinderella Stakes on June 11 did not impress trainer David Hofmans as much as what he has seen since then.

As the summer continues, Hofmans has noticed that Well Deserved is growing up - and fast.

"She's changed," Hofmans said. "She's relaxed."

Well Deserved will attempt to stretch her unbeaten streak to three in Sunday's $100,000 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park. The six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies is the division championship for the meeting and automatically makes the winner a filly to watch at Del Mar.

Well Deserved will be favored in the Landaluce. Leading jockey Joel Rosario has the mount. He was aboard for a six-furlong workout on July 3 that gave Hofmans further hope that Well Deserved is more than just an early-season upstart.

"Rosario worked her when she went three-quarters and said that she enjoys working with other horses," he said.

The fillies that finished second and third behind Well Deserved in the Cinderella are back in the Landaluce - Repo and Champagne d'Oro. Repo was away slowly in the Cinderella, contended for the lead in the stretch, and was beaten a length.

"Not that many horses break last and finish second," said Leandro Mora, trainer Doug O'Neill's assistant. "Hopefully, we'll break better and be in better shape."

Champagne d'Oro remains a maiden after two starts, having finished second to Well Deserved on May 1.

Two of the seven entrants won maiden races in their last starts. Ballistic Sue needed three races to do so, but finally won a maiden race by 2 1/4 lengths on June 18. Feeling Fancy won her debut over 4 1/2 furlongs at Emerald Downs on June 6.

Bejarano's title streak in jeopardy

Jockey Rafael Bejarano scored the 2,000th victory of his career in Thursday's fifth race aboard Good Time Sally ($4.80), who won a maiden race on turf.

Bejarano, 27, later won the featured seventh race on Bootleg Annie in a one-mile allowance on turf.

The two wins allowed Bejarano to stay within six wins of Rosario, who leads all rider with 69 wins. Rosario won the first two races on Thursday's program.

The meeting ends on July 19, and Bejarano admits it will be tough to win the title.

"We still have a chance," he said.

Bejarano has won the last six riding titles at non-fair meetings in Southern California, a streak that began at the 2007-08 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

Sunday, both Bejarano and Rosario will be busy. Rosario rides all 10 races, including Necessary Evil in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Bejarano has six mounts, including the outsider Ridemetothemoon in the Landaluce Stakes.

Two of Bejarano's wins on Thursday were for trainer Kathy Walsh, who had three wins on the afternoon. It was not a personal best for Walsh, however. Walsh recalled a day at Canterbury Park in the 1980s in which she won six races.

Del Mar starts with lower purses

Del Mar begins its annual race season on July 22 with a purse structure lower than the start of the 2008 meeting, but slightly higher than the end of last year's meeting, which was marred by a purse cut.

For example, a maiden race for 2-year-old California-bred sprinters will have a purse of $51,000, down $2,000 from 2008. The purse was $50,000 at the end of the 2008 meeting. A race over 1 1/16 miles for $9,000 to $10,000 claimers will be worth $17,000 this year, a drop of $1,000 from the start of the 2008 meeting.

Del Mar officials say they are taking a conservative approach to purses, hoping that strong business will result in a purse increase during the meeting, or a retroactive payment later this year.

"If things are better we can share that with horsemen," said Mike Ernst, the track chief financial officer.

In 2008, the track cut purses because of slower than expected business.

Another reason for the reduction is the redirection of some revenue to offset operating losses sustained by the Southern California offtrack wagering network.

Some handle from the offtrack network has migrated to account wagering sources, but the network is planning an expansion through card clubs and sports bars. The first location will open later this month at the Commerce Club card room in central Los Angeles.

Zensational may run at Del Mar

Zensational, the brilliantly fast 3-year-old sprinter, may start at Del Mar, trainer Bob Baffert said earlier this week.

After Zensational won his stakes debut against older horses in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap on July 5, Baffert said the colt would be pointed for the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

He has left open the possibility that Zensational could stay in California, for a race such as the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes over seven furlongs at Del Mar on Sept. 6. The long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November and Baffert is considering keeping Zensational on synthetic tracks in Southern California.

"There is not an urgency to go to Saratoga with him now," Baffert said. "The King's Bishop is a great race to win. If the Breeders' Cup was in New York, I'd leave. I need him to get used to the synthetics."

Zensational led throughout the Triple Bend and won by a length, running seven furlongs in 1:21.34. Baffert considers the colt to have significant further potential.

"I've never had a horse when I was schooling him and trying to win a Grade 1 at the same time," Baffert said.