The Factor, a flashy, front-running winner of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) last month, has officially been confirmed for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 16 at Oaklawn Park.
After an easy April 4 work at trainer Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita Park base in California, The Factor is now firmly on target for the challenge of the longest race of his career and a potential trip to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) as one of the favorites.
“We’re locked in,” said Baffert the morning after the son of War Front breezed six furlongs in 1:11 2/5. It was his first workout since taking the March 19 Rebel by 6 1/4 lengths. “He went really good; a nice easy move. He just does everything really easy and he’s getting better. His stride is efficient. He jumps a long ways and gets up to speed really quickly. Other horses really have to work at it. Not him.
“He’s one dimensional, for sure. The only thing that could be a problem with a full field would be if he didn’t break well, but that’s the situation for pretty much any horse.”
Martin Garcia will ride The Factor, who also won the San Vicente (gr. II) in February.
Also working toward a start in the Arkansas Derby was Robert Yagos’ Archarcharch, who completed six-furlongs in a sharp 1:12 1/5 over a fast track Tuesday morning at Oaklawn. The son of Arch has had a star-crossed season at Oaklawn.
In three previous starts this season, Archarcharch finished fourth as the favorite in the Jan. 17 Smarty Jones Stakes, then bounced back to win the Feb. 21 Southwest Stakes (gr. III). He then finished third behind The Factor in the Rebel despite being kicked repeated by Alternation, the horse next to him in the starting gate who was scratched after flipping in the gate.
“I loved the work,” said jockey Jon Court. “He was clicking off 12s the whole way. If we went in 12 and 1, he’d make it up by doing the next one in 11 and 4. It was just a nice three-quarters workout. He galloped out extremely well.”
In other news, Baffert’s star older horse, Misremembered, will help kick off the Racing Festival of the South this Saturday when he sends out the 5-year-old ridgling in the $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II). The chestnut son of Candy Ride arrived by plane Monday and enters the finale of Oaklawn’s older-horse series after whipping the field in the Santana Mile at Santa Anita, his first start since taking the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) twelve months earlier.
“He’s freaky right now,” said Baffert, who bred the horse and races him along with his wife, Jill, and George Jacobs. “He got behind the schedule a little bit, but he’s back on time right now. He’s changed so much in the year since we got him back. I really can’t believe I could have ever bred a horse as good as he is. If you’ve followed my breeding program, it’s been pathetic, but this one came out of it. He’s a really good horse.”
Baffert indicated that Jill would be on hand Saturday to cheer on Misremembered, who will be ridden by Calvin Borel. Baffert will be busy saddling Jaycito in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) that afternoon.
“The pressure is really on for Calvin because my wife will be there, not me,” joked Baffert.