Trainer Bob Baffert’s gut instincts tell him that The Factor is not built for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But the War Front colt is so freakishly fast that Baffert is going to at least give him a chance to see if he has what it takes to get to Louisville.
Baffert said Feb. 22 that he is leaning toward the $800,000 Sunland Derby (gr. III) at nine furlongs on March 27 for The Factor’s next start. It would be the two-turn debut for the gray/roan colt, who won the $150,000 San Vicente (gr. II) in his stakes debut last weekend. Baffert also said the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) on March 19 at Oaklawn Park is a possibility.
“We’re not really thinking Kentucky Derby right now, but it’s a long ways off,” Baffert said. “I talked to (owner) George Bolton, and as fast and exciting as he is, we have to at least try him at two turns. We’d be kicking ourselves if we didn’t.
“He’s a horse that has to be in front, but he can shut it down a little once he makes the lead. Maybe he can carry his speed like Smarty Jones did.”
The Factor, who broke the six-furlong Santa Anita track record in his maiden victory Dec. 26 at Santa Anita, won the San Vicente by three-quarters of a length, finishing up seven furlongs in a 1:20.34 under Martin Garcia. Baffert said he came out of the race well.
Baffert also said Feb. 22 that he may run a pair of 3-year-olds in the $250,000 San Felipe (gr. II) on March 12. Zayat Stables’ Jaycito is a definite for the 1 1/16-mile race, while Awesome Patriot will either go there or the Rebel.
Baffert said both colts are training very well for their 3-year-old debuts. Jaycito won the Norfolk (gr. I) in October before blowing the first turn in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in November. Previously trained by Mike Mitchell, this will be his first start for Baffert. Lanni Family Trust’s Awesome Patriot ran third in the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) in November before taking a one-mile allowance contest at Santa Anita Dec. 29 in his dirt debut.
“Jaycito had a great work yesterday (seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5 at Hollywood),” Baffert said. “He might be a little short for the San Felipe but it should set him up perfectly for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I, April 9). He’s really progressing.
“I had to back off of Awesome Patriot a little after his last race. He got a little light on me. But he’s doing great now. I wanted to run him last weekend but seven-eighths wasn’t right for him (San Vicente) and there was no plane to Arkansas (for the Feb. 21 Southwest). I like him going two turns.”
Baffert also likes the way Kaleem Shah’s Smash has recovered from a stifle injury, but the Smart Strike colt, who broke his maiden in July at Hollywood before being sidelined, is still about a month away from racing. Smash worked four furlongs in :46 3/5 Feb. 22 at Santa Anita.