The Factor is one of the fastest 3-year-olds on the planet. That much is already known. What everyone is waiting to find out is if the son of War Front can carry his electrifying speed two turns.
The question will be answered March 19 when The Factor ships in from California to take on a dozen rivals in a wide-open edition of the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/16-mile prep for the next month’s Arkansas Derby (gr. I) will go to post at 5:31 p.m. CDT.
Though The Factor is expected to play the role as favorite, there are several other logical contenders in the Rebel. The top four finishers from the Feb. 21 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) return, including the winner Archarcharch. Also in with a good chance is Sway Away, who ships in from California after finishing a closing second behind The Factor in the Feb. 20 San Vicente (gr. II). A bevy of local horses, led by impressive allowance winner Alternation, add to the intrigue in Saturday’s featured race.
The Factor first grabbed the public’s attention on Dec. 26 at Santa Anita when he broke his maiden in a track record time of 1:06.98 going six furlongs. He followed up that performance with a three-quarters length score in the seven-furlong San Vicente in his stakes debut.
Trainer Bob Baffert contemplated sending the colt to next week’s Sunland Derby (gr. III), but opted for the Rebel so that he would have enough time to come back for the April 16 Arkansas Derby—if he runs well March 19. Baffert has said The Factor will get one chance to prove himself at two turns. If the experiment fails he will shorten back to sprinting. If he succeeds, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is still in the picture.
Martin Garcia will keep the mount on the Factor, who will break from post 6. The gray/roan colt is owned by Fog City Stable and George Bolton. Bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds, he is out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness.
The other California invader is Sway Away, who returned from a six-month layoff to finish second in the San Vicente after closing from way off the pace with a big stretch move. Trained by Jeff Bonde, Sway Away also finished runner-up in the Best Pal (gr. II) last summer at Del Mar in his stakes debut. The son of Afleet Alex shipped into Oaklawn March 16. He will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.
Archarcharch was a surprising 14-1 winner in the one-mile Southwest, receiving a good stalking trip from Jon Court en route to his one-length score. Trained by Jinks Fires, Archarcharch was fourth in the Jan. 17 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn in his 2011 debut. He won Fair Grounds’ Sugar Bowl Stakes as a juvenile. Court keeps the mount the son of Arch, who fired a bullet four-furlong work March 15 in his final tune-up. Along with Caleb's Posse, he will carry top weight of 122 pounds. He drew the rail.
"They’ve got us wedged pretty well down in there,” said Fires. “It means we will have to leave there running, but that’s the way it goes."
J P's Gusto was runner-up in the Southwest after a less than ideal trip in which he was caught behind a wall of horses entering the lane before finding room to close strongly in his season debut. The Joe Petalino trainee was a grade I winner in California as a juvenile, taking the Del Mar Futurity in a sensational season in which he also won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) and Best Pal, and was runner-up in the Norfolk (gr. I) in his two-turn debut.
J P’s Gusto also turned in a sparkling final work for the Rebel, breezing five furlongs in :59 2/5 at Oaklawn. Ramon Dominguez has the return call on the Successful Appeal colt.
Elite Alex and Picko's Pride, third and fourth in the Southwest, respectively, also return. Caleb’s Posse, sixth in the Southwest after winning the Smarty Jones, is back as well.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel considered sending Alternation in the Southwest but instead opted for a Feb. 21 allowance race. The patient move may have turned out to be a good one, as he won that 1 1/16-mile race by 3 1/4 convincing lengths and it should set him up well for the Rebel. The Distorted Humor colt has won his last three starts, including a seven-length maiden breaking score in December and an optional claiming victory Jan. 15.
$300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II, Race 10, 5:31 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Archarcharch (KY), J K Court, 122, W H Fires
2. Alternation (KY), L S Quinonez, 117, D K Von Hemel
3. Dreaminofthewin (KY), M C Berry, 115, C R Trout
4. Picko's Pride (KY), I Ocampo, 115, M Robertson
5. J P's Gusto (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, J Petalino
6. The Factor (KY), M Garcia, 117, B Baffert
7. Caleb's Posse (KY), E Razo Jr., 122, D K Von Hemel
8. Saratoga Red (KY), T J Thompson, 115, D W Lukas
9. Sway Away (KY), G K Gomez, 115, J Bonde
10. Elite Alex (ON), C H Borel, 115, T F Ritchey
11. Glint (KY), G Saez, 117, K Gorder
12. Bluegrass Jam (KY), M C Baze, 115, W H Fires
13. J W Blue (KY), J Rocco Jr., 117, A W Dutrow