Updated on 12/30/2011 12:03PM

Santa Anita: Dubai possible for The Factor; Mr. Commons may try dirt again

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Shigeki Kikkawa
The Factor wins the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The coming months may call for a change in surface for Mr. Commons and international travel for The Factor. Both 3-year-olds won graded stakes at Santa Anita on Monday’s opening day of the winter-spring meeting.

The Factor revived his career with an impressive win by 3 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs. The victory reversed the trend of a disappointing fall when The Factor finished fourth in the Ancient Title and eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, both Grade 1 races. The Factor has won four stakes in his nine-race career, all for George Bolton and Fog City Stable.

“He ran back to his old self,” trainer Bob Baffert said.

Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, The Factor was timed in 1:19.89 on a dirt track that played fast and earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure. He gave Baffert his first victory in the Malibu.

The victory left open the possibility that The Factor could travel to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen for sprinters on March 31, though Baffert stopped short of committing to that trip Tuesday.

“Right now, there are a lot of options,” Baffert said. “My job is to keep him undefeated and win Grade 1’s. Make money with him.”

Earlier this year, Baffert won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes in January with Euroears, who later finished second in the Golden Shaheen. The 2012 Palos Verdes Stakes is Jan. 21.

The Factor, by War Front, has earned $652,180. He underwent a medical exam in Kentucky from noted veterinarian Larry Bramlage after the loss in the BC Dirt Mile.

“He couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so we kept him there a couple of weeks and then brought him here,” Baffert said. “I really wasn’t thinking of running him in the Malibu, and all of a sudden he started coming around.”

The Malibu Stakes was not without incident. Centralinteligence, a 7-1 shot making his stakes debut, took up when racing on the rail near the leaders approaching the turn. The gelding was eased by jockey Joel Rosario and finished last of 10.

“He got a little intimidated on the inside when he made that turn,” trainer Ron Ellis said Tuesday morning. “He was in a little tight and slammed on the brakes for a minute. He’d never been on the inside before. He looks okay today.”

Mr. Commons eyes Strub on dirt

Mr. Commons may return to stakes on dirt after winning his first graded stakes in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes over a mile on turf Monday.

Trainer John Shirreffs said the $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on dirt could be the next race for Mr. Commons. Last spring, Mr. Commons was third on dirt in the Santa Anita Derby and eighth in the Preakness Stakes.

The big race that Shirreffs and owners Ian and Caroline Banwell want to win with Mr. Commons is the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita next November. With that race so far off, there are plenty of options in coming months.

“You pick races all through the year and hopefully they work out,” Shirreffs said. “We get to experiment. It depends on when the races are and the timing.”

As for the Strub, Shirreffs described the race as “a possibility.”

Mr. Commons was fifth in the BC Mile at Churchill Downs last month, and came out of the race in good shape, Shirreffs said.

“The Breeders’ Cup didn’t set him back,” Shirreffs said. “He came back, and it was no big deal. He handled the trip, the big field, and getting bounced around like it was another day.”