March 19, 2011
Jennifer Hoyt, Media Relations Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org, 501-623-4411 ex. 497
The Factor Rolls to Front-Running Rebel Score; Havre de Grace Starts 2011 Strong in Azeri
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, March 19, 2011) – The question asking if The Factor could carry his brilliant speed farther down the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail was emphatically answered Saturday as the 3-year-old colt owned by George Bolton and Fog City Stable rolled to a 6 ¼-length victory in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) in front of 34,698 fans at Oaklawn Park.
Also on the program, Fox Hill Farms’ Havre de Grace started her 2011 campaign with a powerful win in the $150,000 Azeri Stakes (G3), besting her rival Blind Luck, last year’s 3-year-old champion filly, by 3¼ lengths in their tune-up for next month’s $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).
The California invader The Factor was making his first start around two turns after winning the San Vicente Stakes (G3) at his homebase of Santa Anita Park last month. The son of War Front had blitzed to sprinting wins, including a track record-setting performance at six furlongs there, but trainer Bob Baffert confidently shipped the roan colt east and was rewarded with a cruising and crushing win under jockey Martin Garcia in 1:42.19 over a fast track.
“It was pretty amazing what he did today,” said Baffert, who became the fourth trainer to win back-to-back Rebel Stakes following champion Lookin At Lucky in the race last year. “This was a more demanding track than Santa Anita and he probably got more out of this than any race so far.”
The Factor was the 7-5 of the big crowd – the largest of the season thus far – and paid $4.80, $4.00 and $3.20. Caleb’s Posse, the winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes here in January, chased home in second while Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Archarcharch was third.
The start of the Rebel was delayed when Alternation reared in the starting gate, cut his leg and was scratched by the stewards and track veterinarian. Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said the cut appeared superficial and the colt’s jockey Luis Quinonez was unharmed.
“That was an up and down,” said Von Hemel, who is also the trainer of Caleb’s Posse. “We will probably put some antibiotics on it as a precaution, but I’m proud as punch of Caleb.”
The Azeri was billed as the latest showdown between Havre de Grace and Blind Luck after the two raced against each other four times last year. Jockey Ramon Dominguez confidently guided the 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam from just off the pace before scooting clear at the top of the stretch. Blind Luck and jockey Garrett Gomez raced in last until the far turn before starting her rally, but with a furlong left, it was clear Havre de Grace had too big an edge.
“She did everything we expected her to,” said trainer Larry Jones after Havre de Grace matched the stakes record of 1:42.02 for 1 1/16th miles. “She had trained very well. It was awesome. I wasn’t planning on going out and equaling the stakes record, but that was a bonus that she did it fast. She’s an incredible mare.”
Havre de Grace returned $5.20, 2.60 and 2.20 over Blind Luck, who paid $2.60 and 2.10 as the slight favorite. Pace-setter and winner of last month’s Bayakoa Stakes Absinthe Minded held third at $3.00. The winner got 1 1/16th miles in 1:42.02 – matching the stakes record.
In addition to the 11-race card, Oaklawn had its annual boat and truck giveaway. There were 18 names drawn throughout the day and 14 or 78% were from out of state showing Oaklawn’s appeal is far reaching. The winner was Charles Proetz of Little Rock, AR.