By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
A field decimated to nine starters from an original cast of 13 saw The Factor speed away to victory in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Away from the gate well, The Factor was briefly challenged by longshot Saratoga Red, but by the time the field hit the first turn, The Factor had a clear lead. He maintained an advantage throughout the race and opened up in the home stretch to win easily.
Caleb's Posse, the Smarty Jones Stakes winner that was sixth in the Grade III Southwest Stakes, rallied around the second turn to get up for second over Southwest winner Archarcharch, who tracked The Factor from the rail the entire race.
The race followed an undercard that saw a decided speed bias today. Six of the first nine winners were first or second at the first call of their races. The Rebel was the tenth on the card.
Ridden by Martin Garcia, The Factor ran the first quarter-mile in :23.33 and the half in :46.77. At that point, he held a 2 1/2-length lead over Saratoga Red. After six furlongs in 1:10.98, The Factor still led by 2 1/2 lengths, with Saratoga Red clinging to second and Caleb's Posse on the move five wide. Meanwhile, Archarcharch remained on the rail in third place.
With a furlong left to run, The Factor led Caleb's Posse by three lengths, and he outran him to the wire to prevail by six, timed in 1:42.19 for the 1 1/16 mile.
Archarcharch, who came again after being passed by the runner-up in upper stretch, was another neck back in third at the wire. Saratoga Red hung on for fourth, 1 1/4 length back of Archarcharch.
The order of finish was completed by J W Blue, Sway Away, J P's Gusto, Picko's Pride and Bluegrass Jam, none of them with any major excuse.
Pre-race protocol was not orderly. After Alternation was loaded into gate 2, he became very upset. He was scratched by track stewards. That led to the remainder of the field being led in circles without riders on their backs for several minutes while Alternation was removed from the track.
Elite Alex was scratched earlier today after defecting to the Grade II Louisiana Derby, and Dreaminofthewin and Glint were scratched yesterday after the trainer of the former said he didn't like the horse's foot problem and the latter's connections decided they didn't like his post.
Sway Away was the early favorite in the betting, but The Factor wound up the 7-5 choice, and Sway Away was sent off at 9-5. Sway Away was a bit fractious in the gate and was rank early. After being slightly steadied in the first turn, he didn't mount a rally.
J P's Gusto, the third betting choice at 7-2, had a trouble-free trip and tried to rally in the second turn only to flatten out.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert said he likes the track and that he might bring The Factor back to Oaklawn Park for the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 16.
The Factor is a son of War Front out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness. He was bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds and is owned by Fog City Stable and George Bolton.
Bob Baffert, winning trainer: "He got a nice trip, he slowed down as much as he could. When I saw 46 and change, I thought 'we've got a chance.'" As for what's next? "Maybe bring him back for the Derby here, I like this track.
“I was concerned because my horse was in the gate when the horse started acting up. Anytime something like that happens it can get horses near him stirred up. 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. Right now I’d say we would probably come back. He clearly could have gone a mile and an eighth today.”
Martin Garcia, winning jockey: “He is really that fast. 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 would was going to catch him today. He’s a really nice horse.”
George Bolton, co-owner, The Factor: “We love it here. As long as he comes out of it well, I’m sure we will come back. This is a serious horse. He’s by War Front, but he’s by this regally bred mare. Bob was confident. The two turns were a question, but it also wasn’t like there was a lot of pressure on him. The good thing about coming here was he wasn’t pushed into really fast fractions, and we think he’s probably going to be able to keep going because of that.”
Donnie K. Von Hemel, trainer, Caleb’s Posse, second, and Alternation, scratched after flipping in the gate: “That was an up and down. He 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.”
Eddie Razo, aboard Caleb’s Posse: We weren’t about to catch the winner with the way speed was carrying. My horse ran big, and he’s getting better.
Jinks Fires, trainer, Archarcharch, third, and Bluegrass Jam, ninth: “When the other horse flipped in the gate right next to him, he got a little scrap and it didn’t help him relax. That’s the key with this horse. He continues to learn and improve. I’m very happy with the race considering how it unfolded. I really didn’t watch the other horse’s race.”
Jon Court, up on Archarcharch, third: "My horse went well. The winner was pressed. My horse showed his talent. There are big races and better performances coming.”
Jeff Bonde, trainer, Sway Away, sixth: “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. He never got a chance to run his best race. We will stay here and see how he comes out.”
Garrett Gomez, aboard Sway Away: "He was caught taking a step backward at the gate. Going into the first turn, the four horse didn’t want to make the turn, and I was in the middle of all that. Once I did get him in a place where he could get a little rhythm, just wasn’t real responsive. I finally got him moving forward and the dirt started hitting him in the face, and he didn’t like that. He has more ability than he showed.”
Terry Thompson, aboard Saratoga Red, fourth: “Good race. We were asking a lot of him today (with his second start).”