Amazombie circled the field at the top of the stretch and took the
lead on his way to a three-quarters of a length victory in the $250,000
Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, while The Factor faded
Amazombie ran six furlongs in 1:08.24 to earn an automatic
berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint next month at Churchill Downs. He paid
$8.60, $3.60 and $6.60 at 3-1 odds.
In the Ancient Title, Irrefutable returned $5.40 and $12.60,
while Mensa Heat was another head back in third. Sent off as the
overwhelming 2-5 favorite, The Factor had the lead approaching the
quarter pole only to fade down the stretch.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wasn't happy when The Factor drew the No. 1 post, a spot he famously detests.
"The post position was a killer for him," Baffert said. "They
had him trapped. When it was 21 (seconds) flat for the first quarter, I
knew it was over. They had to rush him."
The Factor's reputation for speed allowed him to duel 45-1
pacesetter Sirocco Strike on the backside before he took a narrow lead
heading toward the stretch turn under jockey Martin Garcia. The Factor
owns the track record of 1:06.98 for six furlongs.
"I guess they wanted to press us early," Baffert said. "You
never know what jockeys are going to do; it's always the long shot that
gets you. They have nothing to lose, so they just go for it."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith waited patiently aboard
Amazombie in fifth place before going four-wide into the stretch and
taking the lead just past the eighth pole. Using a left-handed whip,
Smith coaxed Amazombie to the finish line ahead of Baffert's other
"He deserves his chance now in the Breeders' Cup," Smith said.
"He's got tactical speed, a great turn of foot, and a race at Churchill
Downs could really set up well for him."
Bill Spawr, who trains and co-owns Amazombie, said if his
5-year-old gelding comes out of the race in good condition he'll be
pointed toward the BC Sprint on Nov. 5. If not, Amazombie would stay at
Santa Anita for the California Cup Sprint on Oct. 29.
"The Factor is a great horse, but we were confident coming
into this race," co-owner Thomas Sanford said. "He always seems to run
good as an underdog. We knew somebody had to go with The Factor and we
were glad to see (Sirocco Strike) out there with him."
Amazombie has not been worse than third in his last 11 races.
Spawr won the Ancient Title for the third time and first since 2006.
The Factor had been a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby
until he finished seventh as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby. He was
found to have a hairline fracture of a hind ankle that knocked him off
the Triple Crown trail. The colt was sidelined for 4½ months, then
returned to win the Grade 1 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar in August.
Baffert said The Factor would still run in the Breeders' Cup.
He had been tabbed as the early 5-1 favorite for the Sprint in Las Vegas
future book wagering.
"The next race will be the most important one," he said.