04/25/2011 11:07AM

Kentucky Derby: The Factor recovering from throat surgery

Barbara D. Livingston
The Factor gallops Monday morning at Churchill Downs. It was his first gallop since his arrival in Louisville on April 19.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With trainer Bob Baffert looking on, The Factor galloped Monday morning for the first time since his arrival at Churchill Downs on April 19 and for the first time since having minor throat surgery performed here last week.

Baffert confirmed Monday that The Factor underwent a myectomy following his seventh-place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Arkansas Derby on April 16. A myectomy is a common operation performed on horses who flip their soft palate, making it hard to breathe during moments of exertion, and is a procedure by which two muscles are cut in the throat to change the position of the larynx in a horse’s airway.

Baffert said immediately after the Arkansas Derby that The Factor had flipped his palate when steadied back sharply in traffic approaching the clubhouse turn.

“He displaced really badly in Arkansas,” Baffert said on Monday. “He was gugrling like a son of a gun.”

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Baffert said he was pleased with the way The Factor galloped on Monday and that he would give him his first real test with a workout of a yet-undetermined distance at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning.

“He seems happy, but right now I’m not even thinking about the Derby with him,” said Baffert. “I just want to see what his energy level and make sure we keep him sound. I’m going to have to feel really good about it to run him in the Derby. I didn’t feel really good about Jaycito, so we took him out. If not, we have plenty of options for The Factor, like the Preakness, the Met Mile or I could even sprint him.

Baffert’s strategy in the Arkansas Derby was to take The Factor back to avoid getting into a pace battle that could have had long-term negative effects on his horse. But that won’t be the plan if The Factor does make it into the starting gate on Derby Day.

“That’s how you can ruin a horse, by having them go 22 and 45 in a battle like that, and I didn’t want to take that chance in the race before the Derby,” said Baffert. “But the Derby is different. It’s a one-shot deal, and if you can let them do it, then you have to take the chance. If he does run in the Derby, he’s going to go.”