07/05/2009 12:00AM

Zensational takes Triple Bend in stakes debut

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Maybe Zensational is this good.

Making his stakes debut, Zensational won the at Hollywood Park on Sunday, proving trainer Bob Baffert's confidence in the 3-year-old colt.

"I like when they run like they train," Baffert said. "He just has that brilliant speed."

Zensational ($5.60) led throughout the Grade 1 Triple Bend, winning by a length over 12-1 Rush With Thunder. Noble Court, a three-time stakes winner, closed from last in a field of 10 to finish third, a head behind Rush With Thunder. The race drew 14 entrants, but Bamaha Breeze, Liquidity, Monterey Jazz, and Silent Soul were withdrawn.

Zensational set early fractions of 22.34 and 45.02 seconds, leading by as much as 1 1/2 lengths, and finished seven furlongs in 1:21.34. Jockey Victor Espinoza kept a firm hold of the colt on the backstretch and was able to nurse Zensational's speed through the race.

"He's relaxing a little bit," Baffert said. "At least, [Espinoza] got him to go a quarter in 22."

Zensational has won 3 of 5 starts and $249,300 for owner Zayat Stables. Purchased for $700,000 at the Fasig-Tipton February sale of 2-year-olds in training, Zensational is considered by Baffert to be a long-term candidate for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November.

To have a chance to reach that race, Baffert knew that Zensational needed to run well on Sunday.

"I was sticking my neck out," he said. "It's good that the owner had confidence in me."