Picking Up Derby Momentum

PICKING UP DERBY MOMENTUM

Don't look back, Uncle Mo. Something might be gaining on you.

The reigning 2-year-old champ is heavily favored in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, and he'll likely head for Louisville undefeated after meeting an overmatched field in the Wood Memorial. But the past two weekends, a pair of up-and-comers from the Left Coast served notice that Uncle Mo won't have a walkover in the May 7 Run for the Roses.

In the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 12 at Santa Anita, Premier Pegasus (by Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus) rallied to win by a stakes-record 7 3/4 lengths in his first start going two turns.

Then last Saturday, The Factor shipped from southern Cal to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 2 Rebel and led every step to score by an eye-popping 6 1/4 -lengths.

After Stay Thirsty won the Gotham and Uncle Mo won the Timely Writer, we noted that two things you look for in a classic contender are the ability to relax early combined with a strong closing kick.

What might be even more dangerous, however, is a very fast horse who can carry his speed a distance. Going into the Rebel, there was no doubt The Factor was a very fast horse. He set the six-furlong track record at Santa Anita breaking his maiden by 8 1/4 in 1:06 4/5, then took the seven-furlong San Vicente in 1:20 1/5.

Stretched out to a mile-and-a-sixteenth for the first time in the Rebel, favored at 7-5 in a field of nine, The Factor quickly dashed clear under Martin Garcia and shook loose on the lead through a half-mile in a lickety-split :46.77. Turning for home, his pursuers appeared to be closing in, but not for long, as The Factor kicked away again and ran off the TV screen down the stretch, his final time a nifty 1:42.19.

His sire, War Front (by Danzig), was strictly a sprinter; so he is suspect at a mile-and-a-quarter. But The Factor (named for Bill O'Reilly's Fox News TV show) is trained by Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, and he is obviously an immensely talented colt who, like Uncle Mo, has raced four times, once each around two turns.

On the New York worktab

CALIBRACHOA (Southern Image), hero of the Tom Fool H. (G3) and Toboggan S. (G3) thus far this year, clocked a half-mile in :48 1/5 over Belmont Park's fast dirt training track Sunday. The Todd Pletcher trainee is under consideration for the April 9 Carter H. (G1).

Multiple stakes winner GOOMBADA GUSKA (Yonaguska), hero of the Stymie S. last out, motored five furlongs in 1:02 1/5. A recent private purchase by Turtle Bird Stable, the four-year-old is now under the care of trainer Steven Asmussen. Toby Sheets, who oversees Asmussen's string at Belmont, indicated the stable's new charge could target the April 2 Excelsior S. (G3) at Aqueduct.

Queens County S. (G3) scorer MORE THAN A REASON (More Than Ready), second in the Stymie, breezed five-eighths in 1:00 4/5.

Multiple stakes vixen QUIET GIANT (Giant's Causeway), triumphant by nine lengths in the Rare Treat S. last out, logged four panels in :50 4/5.

Busanda S. victress DANCE QUIETLY (A.P. Indy), most recently fourth in the Busher S., traveled four furlongs in :49 2/5.

Multiple stakes heroine ALMA D'ORO (Medaglia d'Oro), an easy 4 1/4-length winner of the John B. Campbell H. last out, breezed four furlongs in :48 1/5.

Multiple Grade 3-placed YIELD BOGEY (Langfuhr), unraced since an off-the-board run in the October 10 Basket Weave S., posted three panels in :38 4/5.

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