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Zensational (gray horse, 2006, by Unbridled’s Song x Joke, by Phone Trick)

Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm; $25,000

One of three sons of the important sire Unbridled’s Song entering stud this year (the others are Old Fashioned and Dunkirk), Zensational entered the Breeders’ Cup Sprint favored for the race, and a victory there would almost certainly have given him the Eclipse Award for champion sprinter.

Instead, the gray colt turned in his worst finish of the year at the BC, and the championship went to Kodiak Kowboy, the son of Posse who won three G1s in 2009, including the Carter, Vosburgh, and Cigar Mile (run after the BC).

Even without the Eclipse Award, Zensational enters stud as this year’s highest-priced stallion prospect. Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm, Zensational was a growthy and rather unfinished yearling who brought only $20,000 at the Keeneland September sale but improved out of sight over the winter and bloomed into a $700,000 2yo in training the next spring.

Buyer Zayat Stables never looked back, as the handsome gray won five of eight starts, including the G1 Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, and Triple Bend, earning $669,300.

In racing style and capacity, Zensational appeared most to take after his broodmare sire Phone Trick with high speed. If like Phone Trick, there was much greater improvement in him with maturity, then all racing fans missed a lot with the gray’s early retirement.

A horse with excellent length through the body, Zensational stands nearly 16.2 hands, has good balance, and has quite a substantial top on him, girthing 76 inches.

The big gray is still quite narrow-bodied, suggesting more development likely to come, and is as powerfully developed through the hindquarters and hind leg as any stallion entering stud for 2010.

Viewed from the front or rear, Zensational stands up well, although he is noticeably cow-hocked. And at a walk, he has a good deal of rotation in front, and the horse moves very close, especially behind.

Actually, a horse who walks very nearly a straight line, although penalized by many sales buyers, may be an exceptionally efficient user of its own energy because an off-center walk or stride will use more energy than one more nearly centered.

This level of efficiency, which Zensational demonstrated in his works as a 2yo in training and during his racing career, is one way for a horse to succeed out of the ordinary on the racetrack. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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