Contender or Pretender – The Factor

Well, my plan for this series was to start at the top of the graded earnings list and work my way down, which I failed the minute I started with Dialed In (who is #2). I then failed even further by jumping straight to the #18 horse (Santiva). Now that I’ve thoroughly destroyed any semblance of order of my analysis, I’m bouncing around again and looking at The Factor next, since he is also running this weekend in the Arkansas Derby.

The Factor is a horse that people like to believe isn’t capable of getting the Derby distance. His sire is War Front, who was great at sprinting, but not really one for the Classic distance. This belief was also not helped by trainer Bob Baffert’s comments early on that the horse is “built like a sprinter and runs like a sprinter.”

The Factor past performances

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The Factor is a front-runner and this isn’t considered the ideal running style for the Kentucky Derby, but it has been done and will be done again in the future, I’m sure. Will The Factor be the one to do it? I think it is definitely possible. What I find most appealing about him right now is that he has started to learn how to relax on the lead. In his maiden win at 6f, he put up a blistering 1:06 and change. In the San Vicente (G2), he ran a 1:07 1/5 on his way to 7f in 1:20. Once he stretched out to the mile and 1/16 Rebel (G2), his 6f spit was a (relatively) tame 1:10 4/5 on his way to a 1:42 for the win. While you could argue that no one really pushed him in that race, not too many horses out there are going to have the ability to put up a 1:42 mile and a 1/16 at Oaklawn Park (for comparison the track record is 1:40 1/5, set in 1984 by Heatherten in the Apple Blossom and equaled in 1991 by Hang On Slewpy in the Fifth Season Breeders’ Cup, and the average winning time for that distance at Oaklawn in the month of April is around a mid-1:46, with the exception of the G2 Fantasy on April 10th which Joyful Victory won in 1:44 3/5).

The Factor is a horse that appears to only want to run on the lead. His first race was his only losing effort to date and he broke in 5th; unfortunately, that race was not on dirt and we have no way of knowing how much of the fault was the way the race was run and how much was the synthetic surface, as The Factor has not run on anything but dirt or off the lead since then. The good news is that not many people are willing to send their horse on the lead for the Derby, and while I think that Comma to the Top and a few others might challenge should they run, The Factor’s high cruising speed should take care of them as long as he stays relaxed.

The Arkansas Derby appears to be shaping up into the year’s strongest Derby prep, and will be his longest test to date, so if The Factor can pull off a win against that field I am inclined to believe he is the Real Deal and will give him my backing for the Derby unless he is ready to fall on his face at the wire.

Verdict: Contender (pending this weekend’s race—I will analyze the 2 preps on Monday)