03/20/2011 12:53PM

The Factor is a Force


It is still anyone’s guess as to whether he will be as effective when someone puts quality early pace pressure on him, or whether he can get 10 furlongs fast enough (in truth, every horse can cover 10 furlongs if you give them enough time to do it; it’s just that those who need 2 minutes and 20 seconds to do it aren’t going to win many such races). But in case there was any doubt, The Factor proved in winning Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park that he is a very serious 3-year-old, and is much more than the immensely promising sprinter he already was.

In his first start around two turns, and his first outside his home base of Southern California, The Factor bounded right to a daylight lead in the 1 1/16 mile Rebel, set a strong pace, and yet looked like he was running downhill in the stretch drawing off to score by just over six lengths. As impressive as those bare-bones facts are, however, The Factor’s Rebel performance takes on an added glow when compared to what established, championship-caliber horses did in the race that immediately preceded it.

One of the nice things about the way Saturday’s Oaklawn card fell was that the supporting feature, the Azeri Stakes, which was also at 1 1/16 miles, was run right before the Rebel. This meant that there would be little ambiguity in assessing the Rebel from a time standpoint because we had a race with established quality and at the identical distance run immediately before it.

Another nice thing about Saturday’s card was that the Azeri attracted the high-class pair of Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. Blind Luck was last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, but Havre de Grace was a divisional Eclipse Award finalist along with her. And though Havre de Grace narrowly won just one of her four meetings last year with Blind Luck, she was beaten only a nose, a neck, and one length in the other three starts against her rival. So, both were clearly cut from the same championship cloth.

In any event, The Factor’s Rebel performance compared very well to what turned out to be an emphatic victory by Havre de Grace over Blind Luck in the Azeri. The Factor covered the distance in 1:42.19, only 12 one-hundredths of a second slower than Havre de Grace did in her 3 ¼ length score. That The Factor’s time was as close to Havre de Grace’s is to his credit because, while Havre de Grace is a female, she is also an older horse, whereas The Factor is still a comparatively young, immature colt.

However, a case can be made even using the clock that The Factor’s performance was every bit as good, if not better, than Havre de Grace’s. The pace in the Rebel was faster than the pace in the Azeri (23.33, 46.77, and 1:10.98, vs. 23.64, 47.51, and 1:11.58). The Factor did the heavy lifting in the Rebel by setting that pace. Havre de Grace, meanwhile, sat a comfortable, off-the-pace stalking trip. In other words, you can argue that The Factor had the more demanding trip, and yet still ran almost as fast as Havre de Grace. For the record, The Factor’s Rebel received a preliminary Beyer Figure of 103, while Havre de Grace got a 105 in her Azeri.

Finally, a brief word about Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. Although there was obviously very little between them last year, there was always the sense, for me, anyway, that Blind Luck was clearly the better of the two. After watching the Azeri, instinct says the tables have turned. Blind Luck had the advantage of two starts already this year, so she was at top racing fitness, while Havre de Grace Saturday was making her first start in more than four months. When taken in that context, the sense is these two rivals could meet 10 more times this year, and Havre de Grace would win most of those battles.

dino More than 1 year ago
Remember Sinister Minister.......Same type speedball that will kill off other speed types then fad to 16th in Derby. Plenty of races at 1 1/16th mile or less that would suit this horse much better then derby trail....I would target met mile with him long term. The derby will ruin this horse and wipe him out for rest of year!!!
Oaklawn_kid More than 1 year ago
As far as the race between Blind Luck and Havre de Grace goes, more credit needs to be given to Larry Jones than anything else. Yes, I'm sure she has matured since last year, but Larry Jones has been instrumental in that. Nothing against Tony Dutrow, but Larry was quoted as saying Havre de Grace was lazy and had a tendency to wait on other horses when he received her. He was quoted before the race saying she wasn't lazy anymore. Lol. Larry Jones is a special horseman and has a true gift especially working with fillies and mares. If Larry Jones hadn't been retired last year, Blind Luck would've never passed Havre de Grace, a filly less mature or not, in any of their previous meetings.
Bill Daly More than 1 year ago
Everybody seems to be concerned about how The Factor will deal with Uncle Mo. I understand that, but let's turn it around: how will Uncle Mo deal with the Factor??? Unless he's the second coming of Secretariat does anyone think Uncle Mo can wear down The Factor and have enough left to hold off the posse???
Michael w More than 1 year ago
you can't fault The Factor's race nor can you fault his time; however, you can be concerned about the competition and his ability to get the 1 1/4 miles. The usually outspoken trainer has been suspiciously reserved about one of his other 3 year olds, Jaycito. In what amounted to a prep in his last race, the horse showed ratability and the ability to close (altho the competition was not stellar).Baffert knows how to get his horse to fire it's best shot on the 1st saturday in May and I suspect, Jaycito is being pointed for such an effort. The interesting thing is who Martin Garcia will ride in the Derby...I wish Baffert would go back to Mike Smith for Jaycito, a proven veteran of the Derby trail and an excellent jock on closers
nativedancerfan More than 1 year ago
I am in agreement that Hollendorfer has/is running Blind Luck into the ground and has mis-managed her! She deserves a rest but probably will not get it. As far as Gomez goes, I lost all respect for him with the terrible ride he gave Hard Spun in the 2007 Belmont. He let his heart rule his head!
denny putnam More than 1 year ago
Going forward the factor's biggest problem could be the other war front colt soldat, and if they hook up in a speed duel you can toss them both.
aram doodakian More than 1 year ago
some one has to win when and baffert has the best look out mo.
John More than 1 year ago
Mike, The Factor's final time was actually the second fastest time for the Rebel Stakes in the past 24 years. Only Smarty Jones (1:42.07) had a faster time in 2004. And he went on to win the Arkansas Derby, kentucky Derby and Preakness and finished his career winning 8 of 9 races. I know all the hype has been on Uncle Mo but just take a step back and look what The Factor has done. A track record for six furlongs. One of the fastest times for the San Vincente beating the landslide winner of the San Felipe. And the Rebel Stakes. Very impressive indeed.
Eroc More than 1 year ago
For the record: Oaklawn's stretch for any races other than a mile is not short...
Don from PA/DE More than 1 year ago
Wow Mike, just noticed The Factor's BD, March 15...the Ides of March, Interesting, but you know what so is my Mother's. Et Tu....they all will have to run at CD in KD, that is why thus far Uncle Mo and Jaycito if they stay healthy or do not lose....are my top two at this point in time. Don