THE FACTOR (War Front), who set a new track record for six furlongs when breaking his maiden in 1:06.98 at Santa Anita on December 26, will make his highly anticipated stakes debut against eight rivals in Sunday's $150,000 San Vicente S. (G2) at Santa Anita, and the Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful will pick up a new jockey in Martin Garcia, who replaces Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.
"I felt horrible about taking Bejarano off," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday morning, "but there's a reason I'm putting Martin on The Factor. He knows the horse and he gets along with him really well. I don't want him to go too fast."
Named for Bill O'Reilly's top-rated cable news show on the Fox News Network, "The O'Reilly Factor," the gray colt led wire to wire when scoring by 8 1/4 lengths on Santa Anita's opening day. The seven-furlong San Vicente marks the third career start for the promising sophomore, who missed some training time in January due to foot issues but has posted three workouts in advance of this start, including a seven-furlong drill Monday at Hollywood Park in 1:24 2/5.
Garcia recently returned to the United States after a lengthy visa ordeal in his native Mexico, and the 26-year-old rider notched his first stakes win of the Santa Anita meet on Sunday, guiding Always a Princess (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]) to a front-running, 3 1/4-length victory for Baffert in the La Canada S. (G2).
INDIAN WINTER (Indian Charlie) is likely to draw support following his commendable victory in the January 17 San Pedro S. A debut winner last August, the Jerry Hollendorfer runner dead-heated for third when making his second career start in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) but wasn't seen again under silks until the San Pedro, rallying to a half-length score in the 6 1/2-furlong event. He'll retain the services of Martin Pedroza.
Multiple stakes winner PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus) merits respect in his three-year-old bow for owner/trainer/breeder Myung Kwon Cho. The unbeaten colt will make his first appearance since recording a 1 1/2-length decision in the November 20 Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) and keeps Alonso Quinonez in the saddle.
San Pedro runner-up CITY COOL (City Zip) and third-placer SINAI (Rockport Harbor) will return for the San Vicente, and SWAY AWAY (Afleet Alex) will make his first start since finishing a close second as the favorite in the August 8 Best Pal S. (G2).
English import SURREY STAR (Ire) (Dubawi), who finished third when making his U.S. bow in the grassy Generous S. (G3) last out, will go turf to dirt for trainer Jim Cassidy, and maiden winners METROPOLITAN MAN (Hook and Ladder) and OAKCREST DRIVE (Arch) round out the field.