08/28/2011 6:55PM

Replay: The Factor looks sensational in comeback, winning Del Mar's Pat O'Brien

The Factor, making his first start since finishing off the board in the Arkansas Derby, cruises to victory against older horses in the Pat O'Brien.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert spent most of August admiring The Factor as the colt prepared for a comeback after a four-month break.

“I’d forgotten how good he was until the last few times I worked him from the gate,” Baffert said.

That brilliance was on display in Sunday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar. Making his first start since a seventh-place finish in the Arkansas Derby in April, The Factor ($5.40) fought for the early lead with 7-5 favorite Smiling Tiger, took a clear lead in early stretch, and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Camp Victory.

Crown of Thorns finished third, followed by Smiling Tiger and Don Tito.

Ridden by Martin Garcia, The Factor ran seven furlongs in 1:21.56, the fastest time at the distance of the meeting, which began on July 20.

Smiling Tiger, the winner of three graded stakes for sprinters earlier this year, led by a head over The Factor after an opening quarter-mile in 22.41 seconds, and trailed The Factor by a head after a half-mile in 44.28 seconds.

Baffert thought the Factor would get away with leading without facing pressure early, anticipating a difficult stretch run.

 “I was concerned when I saw Smiling Tiger go after him early,” Baffert said. “Martin didn’t panic. He didn’t move.

“It looked like the others were struggling a bit. This horse has such a beautiful stride.”

Racing on the inside, The Factor took a clear advantage turning for home. The Pat O’Brien Stakes was his first win at the highest level, first start against older horses, and his third stakes win of the year. Last spring, The Factor won two Grade 2 Kentucky Derby preps – the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

By War Front, The Factor was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in a hind ankle after the Arkansas Derby. Owned by George Bolton and David Shimmon, The Factor has won 4 of 6 starts and $457,180. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint or Dirt Mile, both around one-turn at Churchill Downs in November, are long-term goals, Baffert and Bolton said.