03/21/2011 3:57PM

The Factor among at least four from Rebel likely for Arkansas Derby

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
After winning last weekend's Rebel in his first attempt going two turns, The Factor is headed back to California, but will likely return to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The Factor put up his third triple-digit Beyer Figure in a row Saturday with a 6  1/4-length win the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn, and in the process stamped himself as a leading candidate for the Kentucky Derby.

The Rebel was his first test at two turns, and he earned a Beyer of 103.

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The Factor left Oaklawn early Monday morning to return to his Santa Anita base, and his trainer, Bob Baffert, said he is inclined to send the horse back in for the Grade  1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16.

“Right now, I’d say we’d come back,” said Baffert.

The Factor won his maiden with a Beyer of 108, then the Grade 2 San Vicente in February with a 103. He took quick command of the Rebel, and easily was up by 2 1/2 lengths through an opening quarter in 23.33.

“That’s him,” Baffert said. “He’s just going to be a fast horse.”

In the stretch, The Factor had more, and with his efficient stride he separated himself from the field. He covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42, the fastest Rebel since Smarty Jones in 2004.

“The thing is, he’s just natural speed,” jockey Martin Garcia said of The Factor. “He’s a really strong horse, but whatever you ask him, he gives it to you. He gives you everything.”

Baffert trains The Factor for Fog City Stable and George Bolton. The horse was a $250,000 purchase at the Barretts 2-year-olds in training sale last May.

“George bought him,” Baffert said. “He worked really well, and he just looked like he was the best horse there at the sale. He was fast, and had a lot of ability and you just hope that it works out and it did.”

Sway Away, the San Vicente runner-up who finished a troubled sixth in the Rebel, lost a front tooth in the race, said his trainer, Jeff Bonde. The Southern California-based horse was second choice in the Rebel.

“I view it as throw-out race,” said Bonde. “We left him in Arkansas. More than likely he’ll run back in the Arkansas Derby.”

The start of the Rebel was delayed when Alternation reared up in the gate, lost his balance, and then sat down in his stall, resulting in him being scratched. Bonde said Sway Away, who had been standing good in the gate, lunged into his stall doors anticipating the break, likely knocking out his tooth. The horse then broke next to last. “He wasn’t set and he got away bad,” said Bonde, noting the Sway Away was then shuffled back in the first turn of the Rebel.

“The reality of the whole deal is the winner won pretty easily,” he added. “But if you take the winner out of the equation, [Sway Away] was beat three lengths to the second horse and I believe he had much more trouble than that.”

Caleb’s Posse, who closed from seventh for second, will be pointed for the Arkansas Derby, said his trainer, Donnie Von Hemel. A start in that race is also being discussed for Alternation, another Von Hemel trainee. He said the horse lost “a little hair” on his left foreleg as a result of the gate incident.

Archarcharch, who was in the stall gate next to Alternation, was kicked by that rival in the hip and lower leg, said Jinks Fires, who trains Archarcharch.

“We got a little hair knocked off in a few spots, no big deal,” said Fires.

Fires said Archarcharch is headed for the Arkansas Derby.

J P’s Gusto is possible for the race, said Steve Bajer, the racing manager for the horse’s owner, John Waken. The horse was farther off the pace than usual in the Rebel and finished seventh. However, he emerged from the race in good physical shape, said his trainer, Joe Petalino.