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Derby Threat: The Factor

by Ian Tapp

On November 28, 2010, the Bob Baffert-trained The Factor went postward as one of the most hyped two-year-old maidens of the year. Sent off at 3/5, the gray War Front (TrueNicks,SRO) colt broke well in the 6.5-furlong race, but was taken off the pace, shuffled back, and was never a factor while finishing fourth (video).

Realizing that stalking the pace was not this colt's style—at least not at this point in his career—Baffert instructed jockey Rafael Bejarano to send The Factor to the lead in his next outing one month later. The result was emphatic. On Santa Anita's new, lightning-fast dirt track, The Factor set torrid fractions of :21.62, :44.11, and :55.42 while blazing to an 8 1/4-length romp in 1:06.96 (video), effectively restoring all the hype he had briefly lost.

Clearly, The Factor is a fast horse. A $50K weanling and $40K yearling from the first crop of gr. II-winning sprinter War Front, the colt worked a swift :10 flat at Barretts May (video) before selling for $250,000 to George Bolton, who named the colt after Fox News program The O'Reilly Factor. Sent to Baffert, The Factor had posted a series of eye-catching works leading to his debut. Here are his last four official moves since that educational outing:

Date Track Type Time
01/09/2011
SA
5f work
:58
12/26/2010
SA
6f race
1:06 4/5
12/23/2010
SA
3f work
:36 1/5
12/12/2010
HOL
5f work
:58 2/5

But with all this speed, is The Factor really a serious Kentucky Derby contender? Let's look to his pedigree for clues.

TrueNicks rated A++, The Factor is out of the Miswaki mare Greyciousness, twice a winner at the claiming level, at six and at 8.5 furlongs. As confirmed in the TrueNicks Enhanced report below, Miswaki is a solid broodmare sire. He has a strong AEI at 1.71, and his daughters' runners win at a solid 7.32 furlongs on average. With seven foals to race, Greyciousness has yet to produce a stakes horse, a stat that is especially disappointing considering she has runners by top sires Seattle Slew, Kris S., and Deputy Minister.

Greyciousness is well-related, however, being a half sister to front-running Seattle Slew colt Chief Seattle, second to Greenwood Lake in the 1999 Champagne Stakes (gr. I), and second to Anees in that year's BC Juvenile (gr. I). Sold after the Juvenile to Godolphin for a reported $4.3 million, Chief Seattle was pointing to the Kentucky Derby off one unofficial trial race in Dubai, but he never made it back to the races. Meanwhile, the Derby was won by the impressive Fusaichi Pegasus (TrueNicks,SRO).

The Factor's second dam is the Icecapade mare Skatingonthinice. Bred by Bill Farish, she was twice a listed winner at 8.5 furlongs while racing on the Midwest circuit. Her half sister Showering (by Miswaki, so bred similarly to Greyciousness), was a stakes winner at six furlongs and stakes-placed at 8.5. When mated to the distance-oriented Perfect Soul, Showering produced Perfect Shower, a stakes winner at 12 furlongs and also gr. III-placed at that distance. When mated to the speedier Capote, she produced Cool Rain Falling, a pure sprinter who set a track record at the now-defunct Great Lakes Downs for 6.5 furlongs, and equaled the mark at Hawthorne for 4.5 furlongs.

The insinuation here is that The Factor's range will greatly depend on the versatility of sire War Front. A son of Danzig, War Front won the Vanderbilt (gr. II) at six furlongs, was gr. I-placed at six and seven furlongs, and was a listed winner at 8.5 furlongs. But the Danzig line in general is characterized by versatility, with Danzig sons siring top runners over a variety of surfaces and distances. Considering surface alone, active Danzig stallions Belong to Me (TrueNicks,SRO), Exchange Rate (TrueNicks,SRO), Langfuhr (TrueNicks,SRO), and War Chant (TrueNicks,SRO) have all sired graded winners on dirt and turf. War Front appears that he will act accordingly, as he already has turf graded stakes winner Soldat and dirt stakes winner Tensas Punch.

All things considered, The Factor has a miler's pedigree, and his dependence on the lead will make him vulnerable in hot pace scenarios. For a recent example, take last year's Kentucky Derby, where Baffert's front-running miler-type Conveyance folded after setting a strong pace for seven furlongs. Contrast this to the 2002 Derby, where Baffert saddled 20-1 War Emblem, yet another front-running miler-type. War Emblem went to the lead unchallenged, set moderate fractions, and kept going.

Click here to view the TrueNicks Enhanced report for The Factor.

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30 Comments:

Hmmmm. So this one appears to leave a big question mark. ... We'll see what happens on the stretchout. ... Appreciate the pedigree analyses of 3-year-olds at this time of year. Big help for handicappers like myself found lacking in the pedigree department.

JerseyTom 11 Jan 2011 4:58 PM

There could always be a first time. But I've religiously watched the Kentucky Derby since 1969. And I have yet to see a front runner win at 1 1/4.  

Somethingroyal 11 Jan 2011 5:30 PM

Do you really think the factor is gonna go 1 1/4 on the lead? He couldnt get the distance in the back of a truck.

Inquiry 11 Jan 2011 5:37 PM

Inquiry,

Like I said in the post, The Factor is up against it as far as distance is concerned; pedigree suggests he is a miler. In my opinion, he would need a War Emblem-type pace scenario to even be competitive at the distance.

Ian

Ian Tapp 11 Jan 2011 5:52 PM

I've seen a lot of horses go in 21 and 44 but they typically walk home.  Yes the track is grease lighting but he didn't walk home.  I also think the fact that he's going to have to play catch up will help him, in that he will have to have more races in 2011 pre-Derby.  More foundation will make him tougher.  As far as pedigree is concerned, while it is speed oriented there is plenty of stamina if he's capable of relaxing a bit.  Brilliance that keeps on going gave us horses like Big Red and Slew.  No, I'm not putting them in the same breath, but he looks to be doing it easy and is in a very capable TC barn.  Only time will tell how far he can go. Miswaki may be his saving grace and Icecapade gave us Wild Again so 10f & 12f is not out of the question.    

sr 11 Jan 2011 5:58 PM

Somethingroyal,

There have been several wire-to-wire Derby winners since 1969:

Riva Ridge (1972)

Bold Forbes (1976)

Spend A Buck (1985)

Winning Colors (1988)

War Emblem (2002)

Front-runners Seattle Slew (1977), Sunny's Halo (1983), and Go For Gin (1994) also won the race, though they didn't lead at every call.

Ian

Ian Tapp 11 Jan 2011 5:58 PM

Thanks Ian for pointing out the front runners.  I've enjoyed reading your blog for quite some time but have never posted  (I LOVE pedigree analysis)but as much as the Front Runners comment was killing me, I didn't feel it was appropriate for a new comer to correct Somethingroyal, as I have agreed with him/her on past posts.  Keep up the good work!

sr 11 Jan 2011 6:26 PM

INQUIRY

Are you really sure of that? Must be nice to be in possession of a crystal ball. lol

Mike Relva 11 Jan 2011 6:56 PM

I stand corrected. I guess I need to brush up on my Derby history. :-)

Somethingroyal 11 Jan 2011 7:13 PM

 Front runners have won at 1 1/4 in the Derby...how soon we forget...Riva Ridge in "72",Bold Forbes in "76",Seattle Slew in "77",Sunny's Halo on the lead in "83", Spend A Buck in "85", Winning Colors in "88",Go For Gin in "94",and War Emblem as recently as "02". Horses on the lead can win this race although you must have a quality animal to do this. I also have been watching the Derby since "67" when Damascus was beaten while in that same race Barb's Delight was only beaten a length for it all after setting all the fractions up front.

Swaps139 12 Jan 2011 3:46 AM

Query.  Were the majority of those front runners, simply, the beneficiaries of paceless fields?  The one I recall who just kept running fast on the front end was Spend a Buck.  I believe Cordero commented that one of his wins was a result of no one going with him and he was able to back down the field.  Should any fast runner be able to hook and duel The Factor, it might tire him for an off the pace "Olbermann" type to defeat him.

berttheclock 12 Jan 2011 8:17 AM

My question is this...has Mr. Prospector ever had any Derby winners.  With a resounding "Yes!" echoing in my ears, I give the Factor a good shot....probably a shade better than Uncle Mo.  My heartache is the sacrifice of stamina for speed.  I like sturdy horses..I miss Citation, Secretariat, and the Slew.  They were bulls on the track.  If another horse bumped them, they bumped back, and went on to win.  What I'm seeing now are fragile and delicate speedballs, who have a tough time making it into the starting gate on very few preps.  I like what I see; I just don't see them often enough to make a judgement call.  Even Blind Luck might be made of sturdier stock than the contenders for the Crown.  (And Ian, thank for straightening out SR on front runners.)

Slew 12 Jan 2011 9:39 AM

Slew,

I made a mistake. Deal with it and move on. When was the last time you made one? If anything I learned a lesson about doing my research prior to commenting. And judging by a lot of post I have read on bloodhorse blogs over the past year. I think more people need to do their homework before posting comments. As for myself, no harm done, but a wise lesson learned on my part.

Getting back to the topic at hand. I need to see The Factor moving up in his races before getting excited with his Derby chances. IMO, I'm not certain his pedigree speaks distance capabilities at this point in time.  

Somethingroyal 12 Jan 2011 11:48 AM

I don't see this colt being effective at anything past 1 1/16 miles.  Baffert will realize this and keep him short.  Baffert is not so hard headed now and will make money with this colt where he is most effective.  This colt could be a serious miler if trained to be one.  With all the speed he has up close in the pedigree and being 5x3 to Mr Prospector, this colt will be ruined if they push him to go much more than 1 1/16.  His brilliance might get him 1 1/8 miles, but not until later in the summer.  He does not have enough foundation to be a Derby horse, a Preakness horse and he definately is NOT a Belmont horse.

Robert 12 Jan 2011 2:55 PM

If this were 25 or more years ago, I wouldn't give a horse with The Factor's pedigree any shot to win the Derby. And yes, War Front is still an unknown sire aptitude-wise, but his race record and overall pedigree suggests that he won't be much of a stamina influence. The Factor's dam side also doesn't give cause for much optimism-and let's not go off onto this tangent, but Miswaki is decidedly not an influence for stamina. But, saying all this, the aptitudes of today's pedigrees are not what they once were, and what wasn't possible then is, today, possible. Just as a Conquistador Cielo could win a Belmont, so too can one with a The Factor-type pedigree win a Derby. Long gone are the days where many of the Derby contenders had quality and/or Buckpasser-like pedigrees.  

sceptre 12 Jan 2011 9:24 PM

i love this blog, i really do. I have recently been hunting down all i could find on every derby hopeful, which of course at this time in the year is something like 200 LOL. i have followed racing all my life and i cant help but say, too many times horses have been said to not stand a chance, then they turn around and hold two legs of the triple crown. To many times those horses bred 20 times over to win the derby have come in last. I love The Factor, there is something about him, the way he just lopes along with such ease. He may not be our horse of the century but if he keeps up with those ground eating strides it is the Derby and in 20 years of watching it i must say i have seen some odd things happen, and im sure even more will. Its the Derby anything can happen ;)

Iderbus 25 Jan 2011 1:35 AM

Iderbus,

I agree with you about this blog:  it is fun and fascinating! I am a bit late in finding it.

I guess if Distorted Humor and Elusive Quality can sire Derby winners, so can War Front.

skyfire 01 Feb 2011 4:49 PM

He could be a real threat for the Derby, not sure he can go further or not.  Lets see what happens then. You just never know what will pop out of these race horses...Look at what Secretariat did...who would have guessed that??? I would love to see another awesome RACE HORSE in my life.

dazindolly 02 Feb 2011 7:48 PM

the factor,miswaki on the botton line is okey but brilliant icecapade plus bold forbes and rubiano as the broodmare sire of war front? no derby for me i know who has dynamite in the blood to win be patient body.

cuban chef de race 03 Feb 2011 3:56 PM

with his breeding uncle mo can be this year giacomo but as the favorite my question is why he is not going for the 5,000.000 million bonus when his breeding is more design for the shorter preaknees?another eskendereya? i am hesitant to bet now.

cuban chef de race 03 Feb 2011 4:09 PM

iderbus, distorted humor set a track record at churchill downs with a beyer of 118 at seven furlongs,his sire fortyniner lost the derby by a neck and elusive quality ran a beyer of 122 the two stallions are rise a native northern dancer line war front war front is danzig - rubiano and his speed figures were not as good as d.humor and e.quality and their sons smarty jones and fany cide were very solid animals.

cuban chef de race 03 Feb 2011 5:06 PM

Derby? Think he'd factor in the pace, and little else....

Matthew W 04 Feb 2011 12:50 AM

Two races...two races...he's got a great career ahead of him as he/they learn what works for him...nothing in his DI DP, etc says he can't get 10...

Rachel 04 Feb 2011 9:27 AM

The Factor has not worked since his blistering :58 on January 9. Not a good sign.

Ian Tapp 04 Feb 2011 10:04 AM

The Factor is healthy but will point for shorter races for now.His brilliance is his lethal natural cruising speed and Bob Baffert will let him be himself this Spring and thus no forced Derby trail.

sf know 05 Feb 2011 8:27 AM

I have a friend down south that tell me trainer Ernest Poxon  has a sleeper horse on the derby trail,....can anyone help with this?

Edgar 06 Feb 2011 8:27 PM

i am not telling you friends that the factor can"t get ten furlongs i know he can,but after the winner be in the winner circle believe me.

cuban chef de race 07 Feb 2011 1:55 PM

for some reason almost always the majority of the derby fields are full of questions more then answers some contenders show a strong classic male line and a suspect dam side and the other way around and that is one of the reasons you most pay attention to class,form,pace,track condition,pp,some speed figures {nothing to do with mine that bird}and why not some breeding patterns that for some reason stay the same like no Damascus or in reality descendants have won the derby or northern dancer with rise a native bottom line neither.so the only pedigree pattern i will pay some attention is the last one i did mention  but the factor and soldat whom  i feel are more talented then many people think need to show me couple things i need to see.one thing i did notice that i think is very interesting to pay attention is in the pedigree of tapizar's sire tapit and war front sire of the factor and soldat,tapit's dam tap your heels is a daughter of ruby slippers dam of rubiano the broodmare sire of war front sire of the factor and soldat  and been by unbridled a son of fappiano is very obvious to me that ruby slippers is passing some quality to her descendants but this three runners,tapizar the factor and soldat have some holes in their female families that concern me,i do feel uncle mo is well armed for this war but remember eskendereya? let's see.  

cuban chef de race 08 Feb 2011 11:40 PM

Saratoga is called the "Grave Yard of favorites", if I have that right, but I have always thought it was Churchill Downs. That track has ruined more good horses than you can shake a stick at (Luckin' At Lucky and Zenyatta to name a few).

The Factor might steal the race and win like Count Fleet, or he might run dead last. Uncle Mo might catch him and become the next Triple Crown winner, or he might run up the track at Churchill, then blitz the Preakness and Belmont.

Just as the new Santa Anita track is wack-a-doodle fast, the surface at Churchill Downs is atrocious, and I don't care what anyone says. Anyone remember Mine That Bird? Supersaver? Freaks in the Derby and dull as hell after that.

I don't try to pick Derby horses anymore and I sure as hell don't bet the race. I just watch to see what ever freakish thing will happen to screw up another Triple Crown. They need to travel back in time and figure out whatever composition the track had during the time of Riva Ridge, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed. But then, the house would not get to keep so much of the bettor's money if horses truly ran to form. I'm just sayin'.

Carl 17 Feb 2011 12:54 AM

Sorry folks but you are on drugs if you think this horseis a derby threat.  His pedogree does not indicate he's a classic distance horse,  he's missed a good deal of training the past month and you dont simply race a horse with this little experience into the Derby.  His running style also says hell no for the Derby.  There is a huge difference between a frontrunner who cn relax and a frontrunner who want to run 44 and change everytime any horse is near him.  This horse has shown zero ability to rate to date and the Derby in recent years has always attracted a good deal of cheap rabbits whose owners just want to see them in front for 1 call.  Nothing that this horse has shown so far indicates he will rate kindly and to win the Derby on the lead you have to be able to rate.  I can't believe people are comparing this horse to Uncle Mo or saying he has as much or a better chance then UM at the Derby,  UM is proven at a route and he has shown he can rate off of horses and then explode.  This horse isnt close to Mo at this stage of his career as a Derby contender. Keep it real.

luresdouble 21 Feb 2011 11:44 PM

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