Add The Factor to this year's list of serious contenders on the Triple Crown trail. The brilliant colt, trained in Southern California by Bob Baffert, proved his ability to get a route of ground with a crushing win in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park March 19 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Martin Garcia, the favored (7-5) son of War Front turned in an electrifying front-running effort in the 1 1/16 mile Rebel, drawing away from a deep field of 3-year-olds to win by 6 1/4 lengths. The final time was 1:42.19 over a fast track.
Fog City Stable and George Bolton own the brilliant The Factor, who has been remarkable so far this this year in a pair of grade II stakes triumphs. Those followed a maiden win by 8 1/4 lengths Dec. 26 at Santa Anita in which he covered six furlongs in an eye-catching 1:06.98 and earned a 108 Beyer. He returned to capture the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs over a wet-fast track Feb. 20 in a superb 1:20.34 (103 Beyer).
Out of the Misawki mare Greyciousness, The Factor was bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds. The gray/roan colt was purchased for $250,000 as a 2-year-old at Barretts last May.
The Factor made it consecutive wins in the Rebel for Baffert, who took the 2010 renewal with Lookin at Lucky .
The start of the Rebel was held up for about five minutes when Alternation flipped in the starting gate in post 1, necessitating a veterinarian scratch and reducing the remaining field to nine.
“I was concerned because my horse was in the gate when (Alternation) started acting up. Anytime something like that happens it can get horses near him stirred up," Baffert said. "I’m glad they got them out of there quickly.
"It was pretty amazing what he did today. I was a little worried coming over from Santa Anita because the track there is much lighter. This was a more demanding track and I think he probably got the most out of this than any race so far."
Baffert said he was leaning toward returning to Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles April 16.
"Right now I’d say we would probably come back. He clearly could have gone a mile and an eighth today,” he said.
The Factor out-broke 34-1 outsider Saratoga Red for the early lead and appeared to be coasting for Garcia as he zoomed off to a 2 1/2-length advantage, which he maintained as he clicked off solid fractions of :23.33, :46.77 and 1:10.98. With Saratoga Red, Archarcharch , J P's Gusto , and Caleb's Posse stalking him, The Factor led through the final turn and took a two-length lead into the stretch.
Caleb's Posse, up five wide on the outside for Eusebio Razo Jr., was poised to challenge for the lead at the top of the lane but The Factor never let him get close, edging away to a commanding three-length lead mid-stretch. The Factor finished well under some right-handed urging from Garcia while lengthening his margin of victory in the final furlong.
“He is really that fast," Garcia said afterward. "He surprises a lot of people. He doesn’t look like he’s going as fast as he is. He just keeps going. Today was his first time going that distance and look what he did. Nobody was going to catch him today.
Caleb's Posse edged Southwest Stakes (gr. III) winner Archarcharch, ridden by Jon Court, by a neck for second with Saratoga Red holding on for fourth, another 1 1/4 lengths behind.
Donnie K. Von Hemel trains both Caleb's Posse and Alternation.
“That was an up and down," he said. "(Alternation) has a superficial cut on his left fore and we will probably put some antibiotics on it as a precaution. I don’t think it’s going to amount to anything, but we will have to see what we do from here.
"I’m proud as punch of Caleb. I was afraid that the winner could get out there and put up a 46 and change on the front end. That’s what he did and he just proved too tough to catch, but I’m proud as I can be of him.”
J W Blue finished fifth, followed by second choice Sway Away, J P's Gusto, Picko's Pride, and Bluegrass Jam.
“My biggest concern was going into the first turn my horse got roughed up pretty good and got shuffled back, held up and got to scrambling," said Jeff Bonde, trainer of California shipper Sway Away. "He never got a chance to run his best race. We will stay here and see how he comes out.”
The Factor, who began his career with a fourth-place effort at Hollywood Park Nov. 28, has now won three of four starts with earnings of $304,680. The winning share for the Rebel, $180,000, boosts his graded earnings to $270,000.
Carrying 117 pounds, The Factor paid $4.80, $4.00 and $3.20, topping a $112.60 exacta with 24-1 shot Caleb's Posse, who returned $14.20 and $6.80.
Caleb's Posse, who shared top weight of 122 pounds with Archarcharch, won Oaklawn's Smarty Jones Stakes in January but was coming off a troubled sixth in the Feb. 21 Southwest.