The Factor is the 7-5 morning line favorite going into the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby. Earlier this week, The Factor was instilled as the current Kentucky Derby favorite after the previously undefeated Uncle Mo finished third in the Wood Memorial. We'll see after Saturday if the Bob Baffert trained The Factor can hold onto his status as the Kentucky Derby favorite. He has shown in his past three races that he is incredibly fast, he likes the lead, and he has the ability to handle new challenges. This will be The Factor's first attempt going this distance, but his win by 6 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/16 mile Rebel Stakes on this track shows that the extra 1/8 mile of the Arkansas Derby should be a piece of cake. He's been training well and is definitely the one to beat.
We've seen several upsets in this season's Kentucky Derby preps, so if The Factor is going to be beaten on Saturday, who might be the one to do it? There are a number of nice horses in this field for which one could make that argument. There are previous standouts and stakes winners like Brethren, Archarcharch, and JP's Gusto. There are also those that have been just behind the winners that have shown so much potential and are primed for their moment in the spotlight like Sway Away, Elite Alex, Nehro, and Caleb's Posse. And then you have the rest of the field that may not have yet faced a field of this caliber, but could surprise us like Bob Baffert's Midnight Interlude did in last week's Santa Anita Derby. Those would be the horses rounding out the field of thirteen--Truman's Commander, Alternation, Dance City, JW Blue, and Saratoga Red.
The horses I think will be the most challenging for The Factor are Elite Alex and Brethren. Elite Alex has had trip trouble in almost every race, but he's persevered and has never finished worse than fourth. In his last three races, he's broken from an outside post and has been forced to go five or six wide into the stretch. This time out, he'll break from the two hole under jockey Calvin Borel and will race in blinkers for the first time. Currently sitting 34th on the graded earnings list, Elite Alex will need to either win or place in this race to have any chance of making it into the Kentucky Derby.
Brethren also adds blinkers for this race and has turned in back-to-back bullet works. He was the beaten favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby a month ago, but seemed to be off his game in that race. His conqueror, Watch Me Go, came back in last week's Grade 3 Illinois Derby and finished sixth. I think Brethren's last race should be tossed and you should look for improvement from him on Saturday.
This will be a great race to watch and should offer some wagering value with so many talented horses. The race is the 11th on the Oaklawn card and is scheduled to run at 6:58 PM. It can be seen on HRTV, TVG, NTRA.com, and Horse Racing Radio Network.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby