Fog City Stable and George Bolton's THE FACTOR (War Front) made a successful two-turn debut in Saturday's $300,000 Rebel S. (G2) at Oaklawn Park, winning in such an emphatic style as to ensure his continued presence along the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail for the immediate future. Questions surrounding The Factor's ability to harness his speed and to stay 1 1/16 miles were quickly put to rest as he took an uncontested lead, set sensible splits (for him), and opened up on his eight rivals through the stretch to win by 6 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:42.
The Rebel lost a quarter of its field between the time the race was drawn, with 13 entrants, on Thursday and when the gates finally sprung open. The defections of Dreaminofthewin (Successful Appeal) and Glint (Sharp Humor) were announced Friday, Elite Alex (Afleet Alex) was taken out Saturday morning in favor of next week's Louisiana Derby (G2), and, more dramatically, Alternation (Distorted Humor) was scratched after acting up terribly after being loaded into the gate. After several minutes delay, the Rebel field was re-loaded.
The Factor, who was expected to receive at least some minor pressure from the D. Wayne Lukas-trained maiden winner Saratoga Red (Eddington), ultimately found none at all entering the first turn. The flashy gray was up 2 1/2 lengths through a quarter in :23 1/5, maintained that same margin after a half in :46 3/5 and six furlongs in 1:10 4/5, and had plenty left in the tank to make a mockery of the competition as the 7-5 favorite. He returned $4.80, $4 and $3.20. (Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)
The next five positions were occupied by local contenders. Caleb's Posse (Posse), who captured the Smarty Jones S. two back before a slightly troubled trip in the Southwest S. (G3) last month, made steady advancement from seventh down the backside and eventually passed Southwest winner Archarcharch (Arch) by a neck for the place. At 24-1, Caleb's Posse paid $14.20 and $6.80 and completed an exacta worth $112.60. Archarcharch raced evenly in third throughout and gave back $4.20 at 7-1. Saratoga Red weakened to fourth after tracking The Factor in second early, and was immediately followed by outsider J W Blue (Sky Mesa).
Sway Away (Afleet Alex), the 9-5 second choice who also invaded from California, was a bit rank entering the first turn, fell far behind, and made only a modest rally to finish sixth in a disappointing effort. He beat 7-2 third choice J P's Gusto (Successful Appeal), Picko's Pride (Cactus Ridge) and Bluegrass Jam (Bluegrass Cat) to the wire.
This was the second consecutive victory in the Rebel for trainer Bob Baffert, who took last year's renewal with eventual Preakness S. (G1) hero and divisional champion Lookin at Lucky. Martin Garcia, who rode Lookin at Lucky for all his major wins last year save the Rebel, was aboard The Factor. Baffert said after the race that The Factor might return to Oaklawn for the April 16 $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles.
"It was pretty amazing what he did today," said Baffert, who became the fourth trainer to win back-to-back editions of the Rebel. "This was a more demanding track than Santa Anita and he probably got more out of this than any race so far."
Long well regarded, The Factor lived up to his billing with an 8 1/4-length maiden romp at Santa Anita on December 26, setting a track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs. That was his first start on a conventional dirt track following a fourth-place run in his career debut over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track in late November. Last time, The Factor blitzed seven furlongs in 1:20 1/5 to win the San Vicente S. (G2), safely holding off Sway Away by three parts of a length after posting early splits of :22 1/5 and :43 2/5. With three wins in four starts, The Factor has now bankrolled $304,680.
Bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds, The Factor is the first stakes conqueror out of the winning Greyciousness (Miswaki), who has also produced a juvenile colt named Fifty Five South (Cuvee) and a Run Away and Hide yearling filly. She is herself out of multiple stakes victress Skatingonthinice (Icecapade), making her a half-sister to 1999 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and Champagne S. (G1) second Chief Seattle (Seattle Slew).
This is the same family as last year's Singspiel S. (Can-G3) third Perfect Shower (Perfect Soul [Ire]), who captured the 2009 Breeders' S. at Woodbine; multiple Group 1-winning Maeto (Spend One Dollar); and Grade 3 scorer Rizzi Girl (Rizzi).