08/26/2011 1:03PM

Del Mar: The Factor will play try and catch me in Pat O'Brien

Barbara D. Livingston
The Factor will return from a long layoff and face older horses for the first time in the Pat O'Brien.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The remarkable speed that The Factor showed last winter will be an asset when he returns from a four-month layoff in Sunday’s $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar.

“There’s no rate in him,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s one of those horses that takes them as far as he can.”

Unraced since a seventh as the 4-5 favorite in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16, The Factor is the lone 3-year-old in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien, which is run over seven furlongs. The race drew a field of six, but Caracortado will start in Saturday’s Del Mar Mile on turf, trainer Mike Machowsky said.

The Factor has worked quickly in recent weeks, preparing for his comeback. On Aug. 14, The Factor worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:10.80, and followed that six days later with a six-furlong gate workout in 1:10. Both were the fastest clocking of the mornings at that distance.

Martin Garcia rides The Factor, who has won 3 of 5 starts and $307,180 for George Bolton and Fog City Stable. Last December at Santa Anita, The Factor set a six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 and later won his stakes debut in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes over seven furlongs on Feb. 20.

The experience of those races will be needed in the Pat O’Brien, a race that includes Smiling Tiger, the winner of three sprint stakes this year. Crown of Thorns, Camp Victory, and Don Tito are the other starters. Crown of Thorns won the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park in May, the same month that Camp Victory was promoted from second to first in the Los Angeles Handicap. Do Tito was stakes-placed at Hollywood Park in July.

Smiling Tiger was second to the Baffert-trained Euroears in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs here on July 31, when Euroears set a track record of 1:08.17.

Smiling Tiger broke slowly in the Bing Crosby, trailed by nearly eight lengths at one point, and finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Euroears. Joel Rosario was aboard Smiling Tiger in the Bing Crosby and has the mount for the Pat O’Brien.

“I’m hoping this time we can break a little better,” Rosario said. “When he breaks slow, it’s hard to make it up when you’re going six furlongs. Sometimes, he breaks a little slow. That’s the way it is.”

Trained by Jeff Bonde, Smiling Tiger has won two seven-furlong stakes this year – the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita and the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park. Earlier this year, Smiling Tiger won the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap over six furlongs at Hollywood Park.

“His seven-furlong performances have been stellar,” Bonde said. “I think he’s good at both distances.”

Bonde said that Smiling Tiger has been schooled in the gate since the Bing Crosby, and that such lessons are common for the 4-year-old colt.

“Our horse has lived in the gate since I’ve had him,” Bonde said. “Everyone now and then, he has one of those days.”

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