The Factor held off a late charge by Sway Away, prevailing by a half-length in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita. Amazombie finished third.
The Factor, a 4-year-old son of War Front, is trained by Bob Baffert for Fog City Stable and George Bolton and was ridden by Martin Garcia.
Running time for the 7 furlongs was 1:20.56.
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2012) – Little matter that the opposition included 2011 champion sprinter Amazombie, trainer Bob Baffert can do little wrong these days, and his torrid reign of national dominance continued on Saturday when The Factor won Santa Anita's Grade II, $200,000 San Carlos Stakes.
The half-length victory over Sway Away in the seven-furlong event represented the 16th victory in 17 races at Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and Oaklawn Park for the Hall of Fame trainer. Small wonder that The Factor, sometimes enigmatic, was bet down to 17-10 favoritism in the 74th running of the San Carlos.
With Martin Garcia in the saddle, the 4-year-old gray colt named for commentator Bill O'Reilly's widely-watched Fox News cable news show quickly took the early lead from Rothko and was never headed while running the distance in a brisk 1:20.56.
Garcia kept The Factor under a tight hold while dueling early with Rothko. Amazombie, the 2-1 second choice in his first start since capturing the Grade I, $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, stalked the leading pair through early fractions of 22.55 and 44.50.
When Garcia set The Factor down turning into the stretch to pass the six-furlong mark in 1:08.11, Amazombie and jockey Mike Smith were unable to keep up. Sway Away, meanwhile, had launched his bid from last in the field of five. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Sway Away was steadily gaining as The Factor crossed the wire. Amazombie finished 1 ¾ lengths back in third.
Canonize, who finished fourth under Victor Espinoza, was the subject of a stewards' inquiry into an incident at the eighth pole when the winner drifted in. Although Canonize had to steady, the stewards took no action.
“I'm just glad The Factor showed up today,” Baffert said afterward. “He ran really hard. He was pretty tired when he came back, but we're excited the way he ran. He's always been brilliant from Day One.”
Owned by George Bolton and David Shimmon's Fog City Stable, The Factor paid $3.40, $2.80 and $2.10. Sway Away's mutuels were $5.60 and $2.80. Amazombie, who edged Canonize by a head for the show, paid $2.10. The San Carlos' winner's take of $120,000 raised The Factor's overall earnings to $772,180 from six wins in 10 starts.
“My horse was the only speed today, so nobody wanted to let him go on the lead by himself,” Garcia said in review. “My horse was really comfortable on the backstretch and that's the way he wants to run. He's been learning more and more every time he runs and he's improving so much. He's just going to get better and better.”
Garcia said he was puzzled by the inquiry. “I was a lane in front of Victor's horse,” he said. “I came in a little, but there was nobody there. I'm not sure why there was an inquiry.”
Smith offered little excuse for Amazombie. “It would have been nicer if there were more horses and a little more pace,” he said. Mensa Heat was scratched by his trainer earlier in the day. “The first race back going seven-eighths is always really tough,” continued Smith, “especially with those caliber of horses.
“I'm happy he ran the way he did. He only got beat a couple of lengths for all of it against some top notch horses. I was happy with his race, and I know he has a whole lot of room to improve.”
Plans for The Factor, Baffert said, are uncertain. “For right now, we just want to soak up the win and enjoy it,” he said. “The Factor really dug in today. It looked like they were going to come to him a little bit, then he took off again.”
Baffert shared credit for his stable's remarkable run. “Like I've said, I've got a great staff,” he commented. “They work hard, everybody's focused right now. That's why we're doing well. We're picking the right spots for these horses, and that's the most important thing.”
MARTIN GARCIA, THE FACTOR, WINNER: “My horse was the only speed today, so nobody wanted to let him go on the lead by himself. My horse was really comfortable on the backstretch and that's the way he wants to run. He's been learning more and more every time he runs and he's improving so much. He's just going to get better and better.”
When asked about his thoughts on the inquiry that took place:
“I was a lane in front of Victor (Espinoza's) horse. I came in a little today, but there was nobody there and I'm not sure why there was an inquiry.”
MIKE SMITH, AMAZOMBIE, THIRD: “It would have been nicer if there were more horses and a little more pace today, but the first race back going seven-eighths is always really tough; especially with those caliber of horses. I'm happy he ran the way he did. He only got beat a couple lengths for all of it against some top notch horses. I mean, The Factor will probably be one of the favorites in the Breeder's Cup if he runs there. I was happy with his race and I know he has a whole lot of room to improve.”
BOB BAFFERT, THE FACTOR, WINNER: “I'm just glad The Factor showed up today. He ran really hard. He was pretty tired when he came back, but we're excited the way he ran. He's always been brilliant since Day One. He's already there with Midnight Lute and those kind of horses. For some reason, after Del Mar, he took a step back on me, so we freshened him up.
“He came back for the Malibu, we really tightened the screws for that race. This race, we sort of took it easy on him and I was hoping he could just get by on what we had given him. My plan is to see how he comes out of it. We have Dubai (March 31) and George (Bolton) has been kicking around the Ascot thing (Royal Ascot in June) but there are more negatives than there are positives to it.
“For right now, we just want to soak up the win and enjoy it. The Factor really dug in today. It looked like they were going to come to him a little bit, then he took off again. Like I said, I've got a great staff, they work hard, everybody's focused right now. That's why we're doing well. We're picking the right spots for these horses and that's the most important thing.”
JEFF BONDE, SWAY AWAY, SECOND: “He ran a good race. We're proud of his race. He was off since June so you can't complain when a horse runs that well first time back, but it's frustrating, you know. We were hoping somebody would pressure him (The Factor) a little harder and, it just is what it is. But our horse ran well. I'm not going to complain.”
BILL SPAWR, AMAZOMBIE, THIRD: Asked if he thought Amazombie would move forward off this race: “Watch, just watch. We thought he needed it (the race). We'll see what happens next time, OK? We're on target for where we want to be in the Breeders' Cup (at Santa Anita Nov. 3).”
NOTES: In the last 17 races in which Baffert has had a starter nationally, he has won 16. The winning owners are George Bolton of San Francisco and David Shimmon of Redwood City, who races as Fog City Stable.
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