08/07/2009 11:00PM

Zensational will gun from rail

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Benoit & Associates
Delta Storm comes into Saturday's Bing Crosby off a two-race winning streak, including a victory June 18 in the Kerlan Handicap on turf at Hollywood Park.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The best 3-year-old in California this year has belonged to owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert.

In the winter and spring, the role belonged to Pioneerof the Nile, who won the Santa Anita Derby and was second in the Kentucky Derby. He is now retired because of a leg injury, but their stable has continued at the highest level with Zensational, the exciting sprinter.

Zensational confirmed his place as the top 3-year-old on the circuit with an eye-catching win in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 5, his stakes debut.

Now, Zayat and Baffert have set their sights on the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 for Zensational. To get there, they need Zensational to win Saturday's $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar.

Zensational drew the rail in a field of six, and will be heavily favored in the six-furlong race. In one sense, not much has changed for Zensational since the Triple Bend. He worked quickly in the month leading to that race and has been blisteringly fast in workouts in recent weeks.

"He's full of energy," Baffert said. "He works fast, but he does it effortlessly. He's working well on [this track], that's a plus."

Zensational has won 3 of 4 starts since joining Baffert's stable last winter, with the only loss a second in a one-mile race.

"He's a fast sonofagun," Baffert said.

Baffert's leading concern in the Bing Crosby is how quickly Zensational must run through the first half of the race. The colt can run a sub-44-second half-mile, but Baffert would prefer that he does not.

With an inside post, Zensational is committed to the early lead.

"He likes the rail," Baffert said. "I don't like the rail as much as he does. I'd prefer an outside post."

Zensational could face pressure from Bamaha Breeze, a former maiden claimer who won the El Segundo Stakes at five furlongs on turf at Hollywood in May. He was second in the Whiting Handicap at Pleasanton on July 18 and faces a stern class test in the Crosby.

More logical threats could come from Delta Storm or Global Hunter, both of whom can run near the front. The closers, and longshots, will be Hurry Up Austin and Talkin to Mom Roo.

Delta Storm has won his last two starts, including the Kerlan Handicap at six furlongs on turf on June 18. He was fourth in the Ancient Title Stakes last October, his most recent start in a Grade 1.

Global Hunter won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf here on July 25, and was entered in the Bing Crosby after stablemate Rush With Thunder was injured earlier this week.

Trainer A.C. Avila admits he is taking a chance with Global Hunter.

"It's two weeks back, but this is a horse with no chance to bounce," he said. "He doesn't spend much energy. He feels great."