05/28/2009 12:00AM

Zensational may have big future


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Springtime at Hollywood Park is the start of something big for Zensational, a wickedly fast 3-year-old with higher objectives than the allowance sprint he figures to win Friday night.

"I think he can be one of the best sprinters in the country," trainer Bob Baffert said.

Go ahead and laugh; it's not far off the mark. Zensational's two winter starts at Santa Anita suggest Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat have license to dream large.

Zensational returned from a six-month layoff Feb. 21 with a powerful 1:08.64 maiden win that earned a 104 Beyer, the third-fastest sprint of the meet. The comeback romp made Zensational a potential candidate for the Triple Crown races, but only if he could run long.

A two-turn allowance March 27 was designed as a prep race for a Grade 2 at Keeneland, according to Baffert. "We were thinking Coolmore Lexington if we could get him to slow down."

Zensational wanted to go fast.

"He just grabbed the bit and took off," Baffert said. Zensational ripped open 10 lengths through a 44.92-second half, and then predictably tired. His final half was 54 seconds. Baffert went back to the drawing board, trying to harness his speed. He believes he has.

"I've slowed him down, he's filled out, and he looks great," Baffert said. "I'm counting on him putting on a show Friday night."

The 1-for-3 Zensational, a $700,000 son of Unbridled's Song out of the stakes-winning sprint mare Joke, finished fourth in his only start last summer at Saratoga for Bill Mott.

The colt has trained so well Baffert entered him in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera on Sunday and also toyed with the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 6 at Belmont.

"I don't want to ship him yet," Baffert said, "I want to get a confidence booster in him."

Race 7 on Friday goes at about 10 p.m. Pacific. Ten 3-year-olds, eligible for an entry-level allowance condition, race 6 1/2 furlongs, including sharp maiden winners Dark and Deep and Best Mon, and allowance runner-up Candy Lion who is making his second start back.

Dark and Deep won a good $80,000 maiden-claimer last out; Candy Lion finished second in his allowance return, beaten by losing Barrera favorite Canonize.