THE FACTOR EXTENDS BAFFERT’S REMARKABLE STREAK WITH HALF-LENGTH WIN IN GRADE II SAN CARLOS; AMAZOMBIE FINISHES THIRD

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 7-10 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.”

Justifying her 1-5 favoritism, Mizdirection ran off with the earlier Clockers’ Corner Handicap for popular sports talk radio and television star Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing and partners, winning the $75,260 event for fillies and mares by 2 ½ lengths over Givine.

Ridden by Smith in the 6 ½-furlong competition over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, the gray 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast led throughout while recording her third straight win including the Grade III Monrovia Stakes on Jan. 2. The winning time was 1:12.22.

Givine, ridden by Joe Talamo, finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of third-place Remit with Bejarano aboard. The winner paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Givine paid $3.40 and $2.20. The show price on Remit was $2.20. Trained by Mike Puype, Mizdirection earned $44,400 to increase her lifetime earnings to $300,011 from a 5-3-1 record in nine starts.

Stoney Fleece is the 5-2 morning line favorite among nine entrants in Sunday’s $70,000 Baffle Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on turf, feature event on a nine-race program that gets underway at 12:30 p.m.

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