10/06/2011 3:23PM

Santa Anita: The Factor raring to go in Ancient Title

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Shigeki Kikkawa
The Factor, with Martin Garcia riding, comes back from a layoff to win the Pat O'Brien.

ARCADIA, Calif. – They have pretty much abandoned trying to contain the 3-year-old sprinter around trainer Bob Baffert’s barn.

Thursday, two days before The Factor was scheduled to start as a heavy favorite in Saturday’s $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita, Baffert wanted to jog The Factor for his morning routine only for exercise rider Manny Avila to beg otherwise.

“I wanted to jog him, but Manny pleaded with me to gallop him,” Baffert said. “He said, ‘I won’t be able to hold him tomorrow.’ ”

There will no holding back The Factor when he starts in the Grade 1 Ancient Title over six furlongs. The Factor drew the rail. Judging from his recent races, The Factor will be rolling from the start.

“I wish we could shut him off in the race a little bit, but we can’t,” Baffert said. “He just wants to go. He looks as good as ever.”

At stake is The Factor’s reputation as a top sprinter and the way Baffert prepares The Factor for the Breeders’ Cup. The Ancient Title is part of the BC Challenge program, offering a fees-paid berth to the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 to the winner.

Baffert said the BC Sprint is a primary target for The Factor, but that the Dirt Mile is a consideration.

Owned by George Bolton and Fog City Stable, The Factor has won 4 of 6 starts. The Factor holds the six-furlong track record at Santa Anita, 1:06.98, set when he beat maidens as a 2-year-old last December.

Following a seventh as the 4-5 favorite in the Arkansas Derby in April, The Factor was found to have a hairline fracture of a hind ankle. In his comeback in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 28, The Factor led or disputed the early pace and pulled clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

“He was ready,” Baffert said of the Pat O’Brien. “He’s easy to get ready, a natural.”

The Factor is expected to be such a dominating favorite in the Ancient Title that rival trainers think they’re best chance may be if he has a bad race.

“It’s all about The Factor with an easy lead,” said Bill Spawr, who starts Amazombie. “There is no speed to go with him on paper. We have to hope he doesn’t have that early foot he had before.”

Amazombie was third in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs at Del Mar, finishing 1 3/4 lengths behind Euroears. Earlier this year, Amazombie won three stakes, including the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs here in April. He is a threat from just off the pace.

Amazombie needs to win the Ancient Title to move closer to a start in the BC Sprint, Spawr said. “If he wins, he would be eligible,” Spawr said, referring to the fees-paid berth to the Sprint.

When Amazombie was winning stakes in the spring, Mensa Heat was racing in claiming races, enough for owner Peter Redekop and trainer Ted H. West to take him for $25,000 in April. Since then, Mensa Heat has won 4 of 5 starts, including the restricted Pirate’s Bounty Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 7. He breaks from the outside in a field of six in the Ancient Title.

“He just seems to be getting better,” West said. “We’ve got a hot horse that’s improving.”


# HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER

1

The Factor 
ML: 3-5
M. Garcia 
121 Lbs
B. Baffert

1

Sirocco Strike 
ML: 30-1
V. Espinoza 
119 Lbs
R. Troeger

1

Square Eddie 
ML: 15-1
P. Valenzuela 
119 Lbs
D. O'Neill

1

Irrefutable 
ML: 6-1
R. Bejarano 
119 Lbs
B. Baffert

1

Amazombie 
ML: 5-2
M. Smith 
119 Lbs
W. Spawr

1

Mensa Heat 
ML: 6-1
J. Talamo 
119 Lbs
T. West