10/08/2011 5:16PM

Santa Anita: Hot fractions help Amazombie capture Ancient Title; The Factor fades

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BENOIT PHOTO
Amazombie, ridden by Mike Smith, rallies to take the Ancient Title.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Amazombie ran the best race of his career to pull an upset against The Factor in Saturday’s $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita, a race that could lead to a start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint next month.

Amazombie ($8.60) closed from last in the final quarter-mile to win by three-quarters of a length over 6-1 Irrefutable. Mensa Heat, a 10-1 shot, finished third. The Factor, sent off as the 2-5 favorite, was part of a vicious speed duel with the 45-1 shot Sirocco Strike and faded through the final furlong to finish fourth, 5 1/4 lengths behind Amazombie.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Amazombie ran six furlongs in 1:08.24, winning his fourth stakes of 2011, and the first race of his career at the Grade 1 level.

The Ancient Title was part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program, offering a fees paid berth to the winner for the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Trainer, and co-owner Bill Spawr indicated that Amazombie would be strongly considered for the BC Sprint, with a final decision to be made in coming weeks.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

“He’s really sound,” Spawr said. “We’ll look at the [Breeders’ Cup] field.”

Baffert said that The Factor would be considered for the BC Sprint. A three-time stakes winner, The Factor broke well from the rail and led narrowly against Sirocco Strike through early fractions of 21.27 and 43.80 seconds. Near the quarter pole, The Factor was under urging from jockey Martin Garcia and could not sustain his lead.

“I haven’t seen fractions like that since I left Los Alamitos,” said Baffert, referring to his Quarter Horse days in the 1980s. “What I was afraid of happened. They were crazy fractions.”

Fifth on the backstretch, Amazombie was four-wide in early stretch of the Ancient Title. The outside trip helped Smith keep the 5-year-old gelding’s momentum going through the final quarter-mile.

“He lost ground but he ran really well,” Spawr said. “Mike said, ‘I didn’t want to get shut off.’ ”

“He’s been training so well.”

A California-bred by Northern Afleet, Amazombie won his first stakes in the Ancient Title since the Tiznow Stakes for statebreds at Hollywood Park in April. In the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park in May, Amazombie finished first, but was disqualified and placed third for causing interference in early stretch.

Amazombie was third in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap and Bing Crosby Stakes during the summer. Owned by Spawr and Thomas Sanford, Amazombie has won 9 of 22 starts and $715,708.