Updated on 02/24/2012 5:48PM

Santa Anita: Amazombie faces dangerous speed of The Factor in San Carlos

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Benoit & Associates
The Factor, with Martin Garcia riding, wins the seven-furlong Malibu last time out.

ARCADIA, Calif. – A month later than intended, Amazombie, the 2011 champion sprinter, makes his first start of 2012 in the $200,000 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.

The Grade 2 San Carlos is a race that co-owner and trainer Bill Spawr approaches with some measure of trepidation. Run over seven furlongs, the San Carlos drew only six runners and may have a standout pacesetter in The Factor, the winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes here on Dec. 26 for the red-hot trainer Bob Baffert.

Spawr is concerned that The Factor will face little or no pressure on the lead, and could be impossible to catch in the stretch.

“I’m most concerned with who will run with The Factor,” he said. “It’s like we are running for second.”

[MORE: PPs and video previews for the Saturday card at Santa Anita]

Amazombie has led throughout a stakes in the past – the minor Tiznow Stakes for California-bred over 7 1/2 furlongs last year – but has been best when racing from off the pace, making one run. He used that style to win the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes here last October and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs last November, both races over six furlongs.

Co-owned by Tom Sanford, Amazombie, 6, has not started since the BC Sprint. Amazombie was entered for the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes here on Jan. 21, but was scratched when rain left the main track wet-fast.

Spawr said that he “absolutely” wanted to start in the Palos Verdes last month, but does not regret scratching Amazombie. Looking back, several friends and fellow horsemen, including jockey Mike Smith, praised him for not starting the champion sprinter on such a firm surface.

“I got so many compliments, especially from Mike Smith,” Spawr said. “We’ve got to start somewhere. We missed an ideal situation when we scratched.”

The San Carlos will be Amazombie’s first start over seven furlongs since he was a well-beaten third behind Smiling Tiger in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park last July.

Amazombie has drawn post 2, one position to the inside of The Factor. Even though a outsider such as Canonize, who drew the rail, has shown some speed, Spawr is doubtful that any of the rivals will attempt to challenge The Factor early in such a long sprint. “It could compromise their chances,” he said.

Despite Spawr’s concerns, Amazombie is ready for his comeback, the trainer insists.

“It will be fun to get him back into action,” he said. “He’s never looked this good, carried this kind of weight. His coat is shining.”

Canonize, the winner of a seven-furlong allowance race here on Feb. 3, is likely to race behind The Factor in the first half of the race, trainer Ron Ellis said.

“We’re not as fast as The Factor,” he said. “I imagine we’ll fall in behind The Factor. I think he’ll have to improve a little bit” from his last race.

The race also includes Mensa Heat, third in the Palos Verdes; Rothko, second to The Factor in the Malibu Stakes; and Sway Away, unraced since winning an allowance race at Hollywood in June.

Baffert, who won four stakes last weekend at Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita, said The Factor is best when allowed time between starts. A win by 3 1/2 lengths in the Malibu extended The Factor’s unbeaten streak in seven-furlong stakes to three races.

“He likes seven-eighths,” Baffert said. “When he’s going right, that’s the key. He likes time between races.”

Still, Baffert knows that The Factor can make no mistakes in the San Carlos. “He’s running against the best sprinter in the United States,” he said.

Recent San Carlos winners

Year Horse Beyer
2011 Smiling Tiger 99
2010 Bob Black Jack 102
2009 Georgie Boy 103
2008 Surf Cat 100
2007 Latent Heat 107

Avg. winning Beyer: 107.09

Past Eclipse champions: Ack Ack (1971), Aldebaran (2003)

San Carlos S. (G2), Post Time: 3:36 PT Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 7 furlongs

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Canonize

R. Ellis

V. Espinoza

12-1

1

Amazombie

W. Spawr

M. Smith

8-5

1

The Factor

B. Baffert

M. Garcia

7-5

1

Mensa Heat

T. West

J. Talamo

6-1

1

Rothko

S. Asmussen

J. Rosario

4-1

1

Sway Away

J. Bonde

R. Bejarano

6-1