His connections are playing the ‘no comment’ game at the moment, but The Factor is starting to look more and more like he’ll be ‘a factor’ in the Kentucky Derby field. Owned by Fog City Stable/George Bolton and trained by Bob Baffert, the son of War Front looked excellent in his stakes debut on Sunday in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita and with his performance added even more fuel to the speculation that he’ll be pointed toward the ‘Run For The Roses’. The Factor, with jockey Martin Garcia aboard, gave Baffert his record sixth San Vicente Stakes victory by completing the seven furlong race in a brisk 1:20.34.
The Factor lived up to his growing reputation as a serious speed horse with Sunday’s performance. In his previous outing he set a six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 at Santa Anita on a fast main track as he won a maiden race by 8 ¼ lengths in late December. His margin of victory on Sunday was less than a length but all of his connections were pleased with his overall pace and competitive spirit as he ran away from a solid field of three year olds.
Hall of Fame trainer Baffert had this praise for The Factor in a post race interview:
“He’s so talented. 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 (Sway Away) that ran second.”
Jockey Garcia recounted his ride and the late challenge from Sway Away:
“He has a lot of speed and I know that the horse inside of me had a lot of speed, too. 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.”
Baffert was vague about The Factor’s next move as well as his Triple Crown plans:
“One thing about George (owner Bolton), he’s very patient. 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.”
Sway Away’s trainer Jeff Bonde wasn’t nearly as guarded, saying that he’s still a believer despite a pair of second place finishes in his last two races. Sway Away finished second to JP’s Gusto in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.
“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.”
The Factor closed a 9-10 betting favorite and paid $3.80, $2.80 and $2.40. Second place Sway Away returned $3.60 and $2.80 with show horse Premier Pegasus paying $3.60. The 7-3 exacta paid $11.00.