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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
With his powerful victory in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, The Factor put the spotlight on himself in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby. The colt’s success is further gratification for trainer Bob Baffert and owners George Bolton and Fog City Stable.
The good-looking gray is also the second son of the Claiborne Farm stallion War Front who has won a major Kentucky Derby prep and is highly ranked by most Derby handicappers. (The other is G2 Fountain of Youth winner Soldat.)
And all the people who have had a share in the breeding and development of The Factor also are basking in the reflected glory of the colt’s achievements.
The Factor was bred in Kentucky by H & W Thoroughbreds. Their sale of first the colt at the 2008 Keeneland November sale for $50,000 and then the dam in a private transaction was chronicled in an earlier column.
Between the November sale and the following year’s July sale of selected yearlings at Fasig-Tipton, the sales market slumped even further, and The Factor resold as a yearling for only $40,000 in 2009.
The buyer was show horse veteran Kim Valerio, acting for Mike Shustek. Valerio said, “Until last year, I bought only two to four yearlings a year. In 2009, I bought three, including The Factor.”
Part of the reason she was drawn to the colt by the good but not famous Danzig stallion War Front was physique. Valerio said, “I come from a horse show background, where a lot of the best horses have Northern Dancer in them, and I love the Danzig line and the long, curvy look those horses get from Northern Dancer. At the time of the sale, his neck was longer in proportion to his body, but as he’s matured, his shoulder has filled in more.”
Another of the trio of yearlings that Valerio bought in 2009 is a Dynaformer colt named Wegner, who won a good maiden at Santa Anita earlier this year, then was unplaced to Anthony’s Cross and Tapizar in the G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February.
Valerio said, “Both colts were purchased for a gentleman (Shustek) who puts up the money and then decides what to do with the horses. Typically, they are bought to race.”
But in this case, Shustek chose to retain Wegner and sell The Factor. The gray went through the ring at the 2010 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training and brought $250,000.
The process from yearling sale to in-training auction was not a hurried one for The Factor, however. Valerio said, “After the July sale, he was turned out at Tom Van Meter’s farm outside Lexington in a field with a group of yearlings. They didn’t go to Florida till January, and Barry Eisaman broke both of them and put them into early training.”
Both the Dynaformer colt and his War Front companion progressed so well that “they never missed a beat, and we didn’t even breeze them until March. That’s what decided us on sending The Factor to the (May) Barretts sale.”
“I loved that colt,” Valerio admitted. “He was the only colt I bid on at the July sale, and I wanted him to go into the right hands. So I kind of nagged Bob Baffert about buying him. We went to breakfast and he was asking, ‘Who is War Front?’ That guy is such a bluffer. Not two seconds after the hammer falls at the sale, he calls me and says, ‘I bought your horse! I bought your horse!’
“And I told him ‘You’re such a bluffer. If I’d known you were on him, I’d have set the reserve higher,’” Valerio concluded.
Valerio has never regretted the sale because Baffert has gotten so much out of the colt. Now the winner of three consecutive races in fast time, The Factor would become the fourth Kentucky Derby horse that Valerio has been connected with in the last eight years.
She selected Magna Graduate, who was eligible on earnings for the Churchill Downs classic, but the colt’s connections opted not to rush their horse into the Derby. Valerio “selected Scat Daddy and privately bought Joininthedance,” who led the 2009 Kentucky Derby won by Mine That Bird.
If The Factor goes in the Derby, he is almost certain to lead part of the race. The exciting question is, “Which part?”