With his convincing win Saturday over a tough field in the 2011 Grade 1 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, The Factor has proven himself to be a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender for trainer Bob Baffert.
Many questioned The Factor’s ability to run for distance after all of his previous victories were at seven furlongs or less. Inflating this concern was his diminishing lead down the stretch his last time out at Santa Anita against fellow Rebel Stakes runner, Sway Away.
Well, The Factor put all doubts to rest in the Rebel Stakes last Saturday.
He covered the increased distance of 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.19 and defeated the second-placed Caleb’s Posse by about six lengths. He looked dominant every step of the way, and when challenged by Caleb’s Posse at the end was able to find that elusive second gear.
Sway Away, who many considered to be The Factor’s best competition, finished a distant sixth place.
Trainer Bob Baffert is keeping The Factor in Arkansas with the likely plans of running him in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16th as a final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby on May 7th. Baffert originally was talking a slow approach with The Factor and initially seemed leery of even entering him in the Kentucky Derby.
Well, that seems to have changed.
The Factor not only handled the extra distance wonderfully, but he established himself as one of the front-runners for the Kentucky Derby by winning the $300,000 Grade 1 Rebel Stakes.
By prepping The Factor for the Arkansas Derby, Baffert is showing he is serious about his hopes for The Factor. The Arkansas Derby is always full of strong Kentucky Derby contenders. Winners in the last ten years include Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, and Curlin.
The competition in this year’s Arkansas Derby promises to be strong yet again, as at least three other horses from the Rebel Stakes will likely be entered as well.
This ensures that The Factor will continue to be challenged leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
It also gives those who received odds of 32-1 on The Factor in the Kentucky Derby Futures Pool 2 a reason to smile.