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THE FACTOR A FACTOR TO BOLSTER STATUS AS NATION’S TOP SPRINTER SATURDAY AS ANCIENT TITLE CHOICE; NINE TO CONTEST OAK TREE MILE
ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 5, 2011) – A leading prospect for last May’s Kentucky Derby before injuring an ankle, The Factor has dramatically rebounded as a top contender for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a designation trainer Bob Baffert’s gray 3-year-old is expected to solidify in Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita.
The Ancient Title, at six furlongs, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race, guaranteeing the winner a spot in racing’s championships on Nov. 4 & 5 at Churchill Downs. The Ancient Title will be joined Saturday by the co-featured Grade II, $150,000 Oak Tree Mile, a turf event that can lead to the Breeders’ Cup Mile. First post for the program of 10 races is 1 p.m.
The Factor returned from 4 ½ months on the sidelines to impressively capture Del Mar’s Grade I Pat O’Brien Stakes on Aug. 28. Covering seven furlongs in 1:21.56 under regular rider Martin Garcia, the War Front colt thrust himself squarely into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint picture. He assumed pre-BC favoritism last Saturday when Trappe Shot ran fourth in Belmont Park’s Grade I Vosburgh Stakes.
The Factor, who breezed a half mile at Santa Anita on Monday morning in 47 flat, is listed at 5-1 in Las Vegas Future Book wagering. Defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Big Drama is next at 6-1.
The Factor will face five adversaries on Saturday when attempting to build on the impression he left following the Pat O’Brien. “When this horse is really on his game, he is an extraordinary horse,” Baffert said afterward. “He has got the most beautiful stride I’ve ever seen on a horse. It’s like he barely picks up his feet.”
The colt, named in large part for Bill O’Reilly’s highly rated “The O’Reilly Factor” television show on the Fox News Channel, smoothly sped to a 1 ¾ length triumph in his comeback as the 17-10 second choice to Smiling Tiger. The latter finished off-the-board after engaging The Factor in a speed duel.
“My horse was running easy,” Garcia said after The Factor’s first meeting with older horses. “He is really fast. If you take him back, he loses interest. Not only is he fast, maybe as fast a horse as I’ve ever ridden, but he’ll just keep going. He’s really a nice horse.”
Owned by George Bolton and the Fog City Stable of David Shimmons, The Factor will take earnings of $457,180 into the Ancient Title from four wins in six starts. He will break from the rail under high weight of 121 pounds. The Ancient Title is carded as the afternoon’s fourth race.
Before fading to seventh as the odds-on choice in the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 16, The Factor had won his three previous starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths including the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes. He suffered a hairline fracture of a hind ankle in the Arkansas Derby.
The Factor was purchased by Bolton for $250,000 at the 2010 Barretts May 2-year-olds sale. Bolton later brought in Shimmons as a partner. The Factor is out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness and was bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds.
While Baffert is more than likely to race The Factor in The Sprint on Breeders’ Cup Saturday if all goes to plan in the Ancient Title, he holds an option of competing in the Dirt Mile. “I’d like to keep him around one turn,” Baffert noted, “and it’s a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs.”
Trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr’s Amazombie may offer The Factor his prime competition on Saturday. With the exception of a single start around two turns, the 5-year-old gelding has not finished worse than third in his last 15 races. In his last start at Santa Anita, Amazombie rallied to take the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on April 3. Regular rider Mike Smith will be aboard the California-bred son of Northern Afleet who has earned $565,708 from an 8-4-5 record in 21 starts.
The complete field for the Ancient Title Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: The Factor, Martin Garcia, 121; Sirocco Strike, Victor Espinoza, 119; Square Eddie, Patrick Valenzuela, 119; Irrefutable, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Amazombie, Mike Smith, 119, and Mensa Heat, Joseph Talamo, 119.
Mr. Commons, a 3-year-old who lost the Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap by a nose bob to Caracortado, will be aiming for better luck among nine entrants in the Oak Tree Mile, which goes as the ninth race.
St. George Farm Racing’s homebred son of Artie Schiller got nipped in the final jump of his first meeting with elders in the Aug. 27 Del Mar Mile Handicap following a 1 ½ length victory in Del Mar’s Oceanside Stakes, also at one mile on grass.
Hall of Famer Smith will be back aboard the bay colt trained by John Shirreffs who returned to action in the Oceanside after two months of down time that followed a dull eighth in the Preakness Stakes.
With a 3-1-1 record in seven starts including a third in April’s Santa Anita Derby, Mr. Commons will take earnings of $293,660 into the Oak Tree Mile. His only setback in three starts on turf was the nose loss to Caracortado.
His opposition includes hard-hitting turfer Jeranimo and Crown of Thorns, most recently third to The Factor in the Pat O’Brien and a winner of Hollywood Park’s Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap in May. Crown of Thorns will be making his turf debut in the Oak Tree Mile under high weight of 124 pounds.
An earner of $570,400 from a 5-4-4 record in 21 starts for owner B. J. Wright and trainer Michael Pender, Jeranimo will be ridden by Martin Garcia, whose only previous experience aboard the Congaree offspring resulted in a victory in Santa Anita’s Grade II Strub Stakes last year.
Jeranimo is coming off a dull eighth behind Acclamation in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 28. But in his previous out, he ran second to soaring star Acclamation in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes on turf while Caracortado finished third.
Trained by Richard Mandella, Crown of Thorns has banked $812,693 for Spendthrift Farm with a 3-4-2 showing in 12 career starts. Relatively lightly raced at the age of six, Crown of Thorns was nosed out by Dancing in Silks when second in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. Alonso Quinonez will be aboard Crown of Thorns for the first time on Saturday.
The complete field for the Oak Tree Mile, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Victory Pete, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 119; El Gato Malo, David Flores, 119; John Johny Jak, Bejarano, 119; Blue Chagall, no rider, 119; Jeranimo, Garcia, 121; Mr. Commons, Smith, 116; Crown of Thorns, Alonso Quinonez, 124; Calimonco, Espinoza, 119, and Monterey Jazz, Talamo, 119.