The Factor wins the Malibu Stakes.

The Factor wins the Malibu Stakes.

Benoit Photography

The Factor Cruises in Malibu Stakes

Fifth win in nine starts for son of War Front trained by Bob Baffert.

Fog City Stable and George Bolton’s The Factor  cruised to a decisive 3 1/2-length victory in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) before a crowd of 44,579 on the Dec. 26 opening day card at Santa Anita.

After breaking quickly from the outside 11 post position, The Factor and jockey Martin Garcia dueled with Centralingeligence and Joel Rosario for the early lead before the latter dropped back nearing the three-eighths pole and was eventually eased.

A 3-year-old son of War Front --Greyciousness, by Miswaki, trained by Bob Baffert, The Factor zipped along in :22.61 for the first quarter mile, completed the half in a quick :44.61, and got the six furlongs in 1:07.96. After fighting off a challenge from Rothko, the colt went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Rothko and Corey Nakatani held on for second. The 123 pound highweight, The Factor completed the seven furlongs in 1:19.89, just missing the track record of 1:19.70.

“He was really sharp and was ready to win,” Garcia said. “Plus, he really likes this track. I decided to let him run and put me wherever he wanted to put me, and look at what he did. I didn’t want to go to the rail today. I wanted to stay a little bit off and if somebody wanted to go, I just let them go and stayed outside. I don’t think there was a horse that could beat him today, he was really sharp.”“

The Factor, one of four Baffert trainees in the race, paid $7.20, $4.80, and $3.60, with Rothko worth $6.00 and $4.00, and Associate returning $3.60.

"I didn’t know what happened at the three-eighths pole," said Baffert, the Hall of Fame conditioner who was winning the Malibu for the first time. "I didn’t know if it affected The Factor or Hoorayforhollywood (one of Baffert's three other horses). I saw that horse (Centralinteligence) take up. I thought all my horses were going to run big races. Smash, he never really got going. I was disappointed in his performance, but The Factor, he’s the kind of horse that when he’s on his game, he’s really a dangerous horse.

“He ran great at Del Mar (winning the grade I Pat O’Brien on that track (Churchill Downs) that day (Nov. 5). There were a lot of horses that were really having trouble with it, especially mine. But he likes this track, been training really well.

“I told Martin ‘Just let him break, ride your own race and if he’s pulling you out of the saddle, that means The Factor’s back.’ I saw that down the backside. Then I was just looking for my other horses, hoping somebody else would come running late.

“It’s exciting to win the Malibu. It’s a great race, some great horses have won it, some great trainers. It was lacking on my resume. I can put it on my website tonight . . . The Factor, you could tell he was just kicking in gear at the end there. When The Factor runs his race, it’s going to be tough to really beat him. The Factor we know showed up today.”

Asked the advantage of breaking from the outside as opposed to the rail,  Baffert replied, “It was a huge advantage . . . the way he was training, the one hole, he probably would have been OK today. The way he came up to this race was pretty impressive. I thought he’d run well in the Breeders’ Cup, and he didn’t run. I sent him to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage at Rood and Riddle (Equine Hospital near Lexington) to check him out. He couldn’t find anything wrong with him so we kept him there a couple weeks and then brought him here. I really wasn’t thinking of running him in the Malibu and all of a sudden he started coming around. I got him ready in about three weeks.'

The Malibu was the fifth win in nine starts for The Factor, who has now earned $652,180.  Earlier in the season, the colt was a classic contender, winning the San Vicente (gr. II) and Rebel (gr. II) Stakes before finishing seventh in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I).

Bred in Kentucky by H&W Thoroughbreds, The Factor was purchased at the 2010 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training for $250,000.