There was the usual level of happiness and disappointment the day after The Factor rolled to win the Grade II Rebel Stakes. Most importantly, the horses are fine.
The Factor will be returned to California tomorrow. Both trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner George Bolton said a return to Oaklawn Park next month was likely, but Baffert hedged.
“He looked good today, he ate up well and all reports are positive,” said Baffert. “I think he comes back to Santa Anita tomorrow. I don’t know (if he’ll run in the Arkansas Derby). Right now, I would say he’s going back to the Arkansas Derby. I could leave him at Santa Anita, but I don’t know. I’m just going to get him back here and look at him and I’ll let him tell me where he wants to go.”
Asked if it was a concern with only a three-week gap should he run in Arkansas Derby and come back in the Run for the Roses on May 7, Baffert said, “You know what? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have a lot of options with him. I could go anywhere. He’s nominated everywhere. You never know where I’m going to go.
“I thought he might run like that,” Baffert said of the Rebel. “He was doing that well.”
The connections of the rivals who finished second and third had reason to be both happy and angry.
Runner-up Caleb’s Posse was “ornery as always” according to Kristal Campbell, assistant to trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. Caleb’s Posse’s performance was an uplifting effort for the team after his stablemate Alternation flipped in the starting gate and was forced to scratch with a minor abrasion on his leg. Campbell said the son of Distorted Humor was able to return to the track Sunday and that the cut did not require any antibiotics.
“It looks like going in his first stakes race was a little bigger than he expected,” said Campbell. “The infield crowd, the whole thing really wound him up. Fortunately it wasn’t serious. He went right back out there today and we stood him in the gate and he was fine.” Next-race plans were not available.
The horse inside of Alternation in the gate, Archarcharch, was downright mad after his third-place performance, according to his connections. “I came by this morning to check on him. I had my stick, and the colt grabbed it and bit through the handle,” said Jon Court, rider of Archarcharch.
“He got some bumps and bruises from Alternation kicking him, but nothing that’s bothering him,” said trainer Jinks Fires. “Considering all that, and we were giving the winner five pounds, I was very happy with his performance.”
“As big as the winner ran, he would have been tough to catch,” said owner Peter Yagos. “But we are still pointing to the Arkansas Derby and I’m happy with the Rebel outcome.”
Fires said Bluegrass Jam was taken out of his typical running style and forced into a wide run into the first turn. He believes that led to the colt’s last-place finish.
Trainers of the runners who finished farther back in the field were feeling various levels of disappointment, but all reported their charges in OK shape Sunday morning.
Sway Away will remain at Oaklawn along with Smiling Tiger and Slew the Man, two stablemates pointing for races during the Racing Festival of the South next month.
Connections of fourth-place Saratoga Red and fifth-place J W Blue were encouraged by their runner’s efforts and are making tentative plans for Arkansas Derby returns.
Saratoga Red was put into the Rebel in just his second career start by D. Wayne Lukas. Assistant Will Van Meter said the whole team was excited by the quick progress by the son of Eddington.
As for J W Blue, “My horse took another step forward. He’s continuing to improve, and I look upon his race yesterday as a positive,” said trainer Tony Dutrow, who saddled the colt in his first stakes race and his fifth career start. “I will talk with the owner, but I’m certainly keeping my mind wide open about the Arkansas Derby.”
--Edited from track release