There was water everywhere at Santa Anita on the morning of March 21 as the heavens unleashed yet another winter storm, but it did not rain on Bob Baffert’s parade.
The Hall of Fame trainer was basking in the glow of a devastating win by The Factor in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) a day earlier at Oaklawn Park. He said that all options were open for the colt’s next race, though the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) would appear to be the most likely.
The Factor, co-owned by Geroge Bolton and Fog City Stable, thrust himself front and center in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) picture with a wire-to-wire victory in the Rebel, winning the 1 1/16-mile test by 6 1/4 lengths under Martin Garcia.
The son of War Front drew off with ease through the stretch.
“He looked good today, he ate up well and all reports are positive,” said Baffert by telephone. “I think he comes back to Santa Anita tomorrow. I don’t know (if he’ll run in the Arkansas Derby). Right now, I would say he’s going back to the Arkansas Derby. I could leave him at Santa Anita, but I don’t know. I’m just going to get him back here and look at him and I’ll let him tell me where he wants to go.”
Immediately after the win, Bolton was enthusiastic about returning to Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 16, three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby.
“We love it here," he said. "As long as (The Factor) comes out of it well, I’m sure we will come back."
The 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby is a week later than the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) at the same distance.
"I have a lot of options with him," Baffert said. "I could go anywhere. He’s nominated everywhere. You never know where I’m going to go.”
As long as The Factor stays healthy, however, the sky’s the limit. The speedy colt was a question mark around two turns going in, but he certainly provided some answers with his 1:42.19 clocking in the Rebel.
“I thought he might run like that,” Baffert said. “He was doing that well.”