Bob Baffert won his first Rebel Stakes (G2) last year with Lookin At Lucky and he’s hoping to make it two in a row when he sends The Factor to the starting gate tomorrow as the 2-1 morning line favorite in 51st running of the $300,000 guaranteed stakes race.
The Rebel will be the first test for The Factor who has yet to run in a route race but the 8 ½ - furlongs should be well within his scope. However, whether The Factor can flash the brilliant speed he has shown in his last two races and win going gate-to-wire remains to be seen.
War Front, the sire of The Factor, was a champion sprinter but he has proven middle-distance runner on this year’s trail in Soldat who won the 9-furlong Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last month at Gulfstream Park.
Danzig, the grandsire of The Factor, sired Danzig Connection (1986 Belmont Stakes), Pine Bluff (1992 Preakness Stakes) and Dance Smartly (1991 Canadian Triple Crown winner); and his sire line, mostly through his son Danehill, has produced numerous Classic Champion Thoroughbreds worldwide.
Miswaki, the damsire of The Factor, was mostly a sprinter but he sired Urban Sea – winner of the 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The Factor is a descendant of the Northern Dancer sire line and since 1990 that line has produced three Kentucky Derby winners, seven Preakness winners and three Belmont winners. Since 1990, the Northern Dancer sire line has produced four winners of The Rebel Stakes.
In the tail-female line, The Factor is a descendant of Bonnie Doon (Family 10-c) and that line produced Sarava (2002 Belmont) and Don Enrique (1907 Preakness).
The Factor definitely has speed and it remains to be seen just how far he wants to run. Nevertheless, with two bullet work outs since his brilliant victory in the San Vicente Stakes (G2), The Factor should be competitive in The Rebel.
Elite Alex (8-1) is a talented young colt I’ve been following for some time. He’s never been out of the money in three starts and he comes into the race with a third-place finish in the Southwest Stakes (G3).
One mile is the farthest Elite Alex has run and he has yet to show the same brilliance of his sire Afleet Alex who also took the Oaklawn route to a third-place finish in the 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1) and a win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). Afleet Alex finished sixth in the 2005 Rebel but prior to that he had already run in seven races and boasted a 5-2-0 racing record.
Elite Alex is a descendant of the Mr. Prospector sire line and that line has produced 10 Kentucky Derby winners, 11 Preakness winners and 13 Belmont winners since 1990. That line has also produced eight winners of The Rebel Stakes since 1990.
Elite Alex’s damsire is Unbridled, winner of the 1990 Kentucky derby, and he is trained by Tim Ritchey who also trained Afleet Alex.
The running style and pedigree of Elite Alex indicate that he should perform better as the races get longer and a bullet work out on March 6 indicates that Elite Alex may be ready to run a good race.
Sway Away, the 5-2 morning line second-choice, is a young colt I wrote about in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook. In three starts, Sway Away has never been out of the money and he comes into the Rebel off of a fast-closing second-place finish to The Factor in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Sway Away is also a descendant of Afleet Alex and I look for him to perform better as the races get longer.
Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is the damsire of Sway Away and Summer Squall is the sire of his second dam Golden Gale. In the first five generations of the tail-female line, Golden Gale is the most accomplished racer with a win in the Beaumont Stakes (G2) and the Opa Locka Stakes.
In Sway Away’s tail-female seventh generation is the outstanding broodmare Late Date who is ranked 12th on Roger Lyons of Pedigree Matters Top 40 Dam Lines of SW’s, 1995 to Present.
Sway Away’s tail-female line descends from Remembrancer Mare (Family 8-f) and that line produced the Belmont winners Rags To Riches (2007), Jazil (2006), Birdstone (2004) and Blue Larkspur (1929).
Jeff Bonde trains Sway Away and he won The Rebel in 2008 with Sierra Sunset.
Archarcharch (8-1) was my long shot pick in the Southwest Stakes and I like him in the Rebel.
With Arch, the sire of Breeders’ Cup Champion Blame, as his sire, Woodman as his damsire and Nureyev the sire of his second dam, the Rebel should be well within the range of Archarcharch and I look to move forward off of his victory in the Southwest.
A bullet work out on March 15, his second since training at Oaklawn, indicates that Archarcharch could be ready to run a good race.
Cal Nation is a horse I wrote about in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook. He’s a close relative of Brethren and I really like his pedigree. Tomorrow, Cal Nation makes his second start in a one mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
Cal Nation won his maiden debut by 7 ¾ - lengths last month in a 7-furlong sprint at Gulfstream Park and may be too short to make a legitimate run at the Kentucky Derby. But I’m interested to see if WinStar points him to the Preakness or Belmont.