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
5f work
6f race
1:06 4/5
3f work
:36 1/5
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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