Bob Baffert still has reservations about the 1 1/4-mile trip of the Kentucky Derby (G1), but he is willing to give THE FACTOR (War Factor) a chance at longer distances following Sunday's victory in the seven-furlong San Vicente S. (G2). The two-time Derby-winning conditioner told The Blood-Horse Tuesday that he will likely point the talented gray colt to the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on March 27.
"We're not really thinking Kentucky Derby right now, but it's a long ways off," Baffert said. "I talked to (owner) George Bolton, and as fast and exciting as he is, we have to at least try him at two turns. We'd be kicking ourselves if we didn't."
Baffert also said the $300,000 Rebel S. (G2), which will be held at 1 1/16 miles on March 19 at Oaklawn Park, is a possibility for The Factor's two-turn debut.
"He's a horse that has to be in front, but he can shut it down a little once he makes the lead," Baffert explained. "Maybe he can carry his speed like (2004 Kentucky Derby winner) Smarty Jones did."
The Factor established a new six-furlong track of 1:06.98 at Santa Anita when breaking his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion on December 26, netting a 106 BRIS Speed rating for the 8 1/4-length decision in his second career start. The speedster flashed to the front while making his first start against winners in the San Vicente, reeling off opening splits in :22 1/5 and :43 2/5, and held on to win by three-quarters of a length, finishing in a respectable 1:20.34 under new jockey Martin Garcia. He earned a 104 BRIS Speed rating Sunday, and Baffert said he came out of the race well.
Baffert also said that he could saddle a pair of runners in the $250,000 San Felipe (G2) on March 12. Grade 1 winner JAYCITO (Victory Gallop) is confirmed for the 1 1/16-mile race, and AWESOME PATRIOT (Awesome Again) is under serious consideration. The Rebel is also an option for Awesome Patriot.
Jaycito hasn't started since a rough trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) in which he bolted early and exited his seventh-placed effort with a chipped tooth.
"Jaycito had a great work yesterday (seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5 at Hollywood)," Baffert told The Blood-Horse Tuesday. "He might be a little short for the San Felipe, but it should set him up perfectly for the Santa Anita Derby (G1) (on April 9). He's really progressing."
Awesome Patriot, who finished third in the Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) two starts back, has been sidelined since an entry-level allowance victory at Santa Anita on December 29.
"I had to back off of Awesome Patriot a little after his last race," Baffert noted. "He got a little light on me. But he's doing great now. I wanted to run him last weekend, but seven-eighths wasn't right for him (San Vicente) and there was no plane to Arkansas (for Monday's Southwest [G3]). I like him going two turns."