Heavily favored The Factor showed his speedy reputation is no hype when he turned back a good group of 3-year-olds in winning the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) by three-quarters of a length at Santa Anita Feb. 20 (VIDEO).
Bob Baffert won his record sixth San Vicente with The Factor, who completed the seven-furlong test in a sizzling time of 1:20.34 with Martin Garcia aboard him for the first time. Now victorious in two of his three starts, Fog City Stable and George Bolton's gray/roan son of War Front was making his stakes debut.
Sway Away charged from last in the field of six to finish second.
This was the second blazing win in a row for The Factor, who set a six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 at Santa Anita on a lightning-quick main track Dec. 26 while defeating maidens by 8 1/4 lengths.
“He’s so talented," Baffert said of The Factor. "I knew he was going to get a lot of pressure up front. I told Martin, ‘You are the speed. Let’s go with him and find out what he’s made of.’ He got a little tired at the end. That’s a nice horse that ran second."
City Cool broke on top with The Factor racing between that one and Premier Pegasus to his outside. The Factor soon put his head in front as the field made its way onto the main track and Premier Pegasus settled into third for Alonso Quinonez.
The Factor led a hard-pressing City Cool through an opening quarter mile of :22.20 and drew out to a 1 1/2-length advantage as he reached the half in a sizzling :43.41. As he edged away from City Cool, Premier Pegasus moved to challenge leaving the bend. But The Factor was too much for that rival as well, and with Garcia urging him on with a right-handed whip, he soon opened up a daylight lead while reaching the furlong pole in 1:07.31.
Sway Away, rallying from about eight lengths back on the turn, closed resolutely under vigorous handling by Garrett Gomez and was making up ground late on The Factor, who appeared to be tiring somewhat as he approached the wire. Sway Away, in an impressive effort for his first race since last August, wound up second by 2 1/2 lengths. Grade III winner Premier Pegasus, previously undefeated in three starts, finished third.
“He has a lot of speed and I know that the horse inside of me had a lot of speed, too," Garcia said. "I just let him break by himself. The more you fight, the more he’s going to take off. He doesn’t want to be behind horses, so I just let him be comfortable and he kept going. He is still learning.
"This is only the third time he has been out. I think the more that he runs, the better he will get. I don’t think any horse can keep up with him, as fast as he went.”
The Factor, expected to progress on the Triple Crown trail with the San Vicente win, picked up $90,000 in graded earnings. He'll likely need to show he can route next, but he is now two-for-two on dirt.
Baffert was non-commital on the next start for his talented youngster.
“One thing about George (Bolton), he’s very patient," he said. "He’s been in this game a long time and we’ll wait for The Factor to tell us when he’s ready to jump back into the fray. It’s hard to get a horse like this. They don’t come around very often."
Bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds, the colt is out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness and cost $250,000 as a 2-year-old at Barretts last May.
The Factor began his career with a fourth-place finish going 6 1/2 furlongs on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track Nov. 28.
The 9-10 choice carried 118 pounds and paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40 and keyed an $11 exacta.
Sway Away, last seen finishing second to J P's Gusto as the 3-2 favorite in Del Mar's Best Pal Stakes (gr. II), showed he's one to watch for trainer Jeff Bonde. Sway Away returned $3.60 and $2.80.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose, but that’s the way the game goes," Bonde said. "This horse is the best (Kentucky) Derby chance I’ve had in many years. He probably could have used one more work and he maybe got back a little too far today, but he showed me enough that I’m still a believer in him."
Premier Pegasus had been away since winning the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) Nov. 20 and had just three published workouts since. He paid $3.60 to show for owner/breeder/trainer Myung Kwon Cho.