By the time the first foals of a sire class are five years old, the industry generally has a decent grasp of who the leaders of the group will be going forward.
The class of North American stallions that entered the breeding shed in 2013 was a relatively evenly-matched group when its inaugural offerings saw the auction ring in the following years, and they hit the racetrack with a purpose, already producing two classic winners. The leader of the pack at this point, though, is one who earned the status with consistency over spikes in the average.
The 11-year-old son of War Front, has 212 winners from 319 starters, posting a combined 505 wins and earnings of $17,957,203.
His win total is 61 clear of next-closest Shackleford, while his number of winners is 26 ahead of the same stallion. Meanwhile, his cumulative progeny earnings are more than $2.8 million ahead of fellow Lane's End roster member Union Rags.
Much like The Factor's own racing career, the compilation of money and victories from his foals has come across a broad spectrum of surfaces and distances. The Factor was a Grade 1-winning sprinter over dirt and synthetic tracks, and he won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth over the dirt at Oaklawn Park. As such, his two best runners of 2019 are a dirt sprinter and a long-distance turf horse.
The most decorated of the duo is Cistron, who has tallied one-turn scores in the G1 Bing Crosby Stakes and G2 Kona Gold Stakes this season. He's also Grade 2-placed at a mile over the turf in previous campaigns.
Bandua most recently tried to go gate-to-wire in the G1 Arlington Million, and stayed on doggedly to finish third. That effort followed up a winning run in the 1 3/16-mile G3 Arlington Handicap, where he chased the leader and took command in the stretch to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths.
“We felt like he's had a bunch of horses out there, we just need the one to step up, and certainly Cistron did that, and the way Bandua ran in the Arlington Million was very encouraging,” said Bill Farish of Lane's End. “He's got a lot of versatility. Cistron's a very good sprinter, but The Factor's been getting horses that can run on the grass and the dirt.”
Runners like those have propelled The Factor to 22 black type winners over his stud career, which is seven more than next-closest Maclean's Music at 15.
While The Factor has compiled a healthy roster of graded stakes performers, he is the only member of the top eight fourth-crop sires by earnings that has yet to put a million-dollar earner on the track.
Farish said sharing the spotlight with a class of stallions that includes Bodemeister, sire of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming; Maclean's Music, who sired Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing; and Dialed In, who was the group's top freshman sire and is led by the $5.5-million earner Gunnevera, has caused The Factor's steady performance to fall under the radar a bit.
Crossing that seven-figure threshold with a signature runner, especially one on the classic trail, would go a long way in getting the hype to match the returns with The Factor, but Farish was confident a group of solid upcoming crops would help advance his case in the public eye.
“I think he's a good one, and I don't think people are really realizing how well he's coming on, this year in particular,” he said. “He's very consistent, and they tend to stay sound. They tend to be good older horses.”
The closest The Factor has come to that seven-figure brass ring is with Bound For Nowhere, a crack turf sprinter who has earned $798,107 ringing up wins in the G2 Shakertown Stakes and listed Tourist Mile Stakes. He also finished third in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes on the Royal Ascot card.
Cistron is quickly gaining on The Factor in the race for being the sire's top earner, having brought in $700,719. Over half of his lifetime earnings have come in 2019.
Also feeding into The Factor's lead in several bulk categories are his three Southern Hemisphere crops, sired in Australia, where his War Front lineage and experience sprinting on the turf-favoring synthetic surfaces play well to the continent's racing program.
The standout among his Australian-sired runners is Fun Fact, who won the G3 Mullins Grand Prix Stakes in May.
His Australian sojourns were just the first of The Factor's international travels. Like a handful of North American stallions before him, The Factor spent the 2018 Northern Hemisphere season in Japan on a one-year lease, and breeders lined up with 166 mares. He returned to Lane's End in 2019, where he stood for an advertised fee of $15,000.
“It was the perfect time for The Factor,” Farish said. “It's not something I would normally look to do, but it worked out well timing-wise for him, and he hasn't appeared to miss a beat. He had a nice book of mares this year, and I think the way his results are going, he should have another strong year next year.”
The Factor's fourth-crop classmate on the Lane's End roster, Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, has also established himself in the upper echelon of the group over the course of the past few years.
The 10-year-old Dixie Union horse is at the top of his class by graded stakes winners (eight), and Grade 1 winners (four), in addition to sitting in second behind The Factor in progeny earnings.
Leading the way for Union Rags is Paradise Woods, whose wins in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks and Zenyatta Stakes, along with a victory this season in the G2 Santa Margarita Stakes, has pushed her earnings to $1,003,890.
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