After two wire-to-wire victories in graded stakes at Fair Grounds, Gaining Ground Racing’s Factor This was the one to beat in Saturday’s $200,000 Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs. His rivals tried to do just that throughout the 1 1/16-mile turf test, but the even-money favorite withstood the gauntlet to prevail by a neck.
Factor This first had to deal with the persistent attentions of Ritzy A. P., who was lapped onto him through an opening quarter in :23.93 on the firm turf. Under regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan, Factor This edged to a one-length advantage at the half in :47.53. Then Ritzy A. P. took another run at the leader through six furlongs in 1:11.46.
Turning into the stretch, Factor This issued his final rebuttal to Ritzy A. P. and gained a bit of breathing room, but not for long. Parlor loomed a threat before hanging, then late-running English Bee arrived on the scene. A Calumet Farm colorbearer like pace gadfly Ritzy A. P., English Bee almost made the most of it.
But Factor This dug in, stuck his neck out, and held on by that margin. With a last sixteenth in 6 seconds flat according to the chart (:6.06 per Trakus), the Brad Cox charge finished in 1:41.15.
English Bee was three-quarters of a length up on Parlor. Aquaphobia was a close fourth, followed by Emmaus, defending champion March to the Arch, Casa Creed, Just Howard, and Ritzy A. P. Eons and Hembree were scratched.
Both Bridgmohan and Cox praised the attitude of Factor This.
“We got a lot of pressure early,” Bridgmohan said, “and, once we sort of got into a rhythm, I tried to wait on him as much as possible. I looked over and (Ritzy A. P.) was actually about to take the lead and then I had to go. He was still able to hold off the charge after getting that pressure early. He has a lot of fight and determination – he’s just getting better.”
“That wasn’t as easy as an even-money shot is supposed to win,” Cox noted, “but he ran a huge effort. He got pressure early and every step of the stretch he was able to fight off his rivals. It was an impressive effort on the front end. We’ll get with the owners and determine a plan from here but it was very exciting to see how hard he ran today with that adversity.”
Claimed by his current connections for $62,500 out of a Saratoga score in the summer of 2018, Factor This has compiled a career record of 29-10-3-4, $844,070. The son of The Factor earned his first stakes win in the 2019 Kentucky Downs Preview Kentucky Turf Cup in a course-record 1:59.12 for 1 1/4 miles at Ellis Park. His current streak began Feb. 15 when Factor This set a 1 1/8-mile course record of 1:47.29 in the Fair Grounds (G3), and he lowered that mark to 1:47.21 next time in the Mar. 20 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2).
Factor This was a bargain $2,700 Keeneland September yearling and $11,000 OBS April juvenile. Bred by Maccabee Farm in Kentucky, the 5-year-old is out of the Singspiel mare Capricious Miss. His dam is a full sister to Eldalil, second in the 2010 Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot, from the terrific family of Cappella Sansovero and Japanese champion Victoire Pisa, the 2011 Dubai World Cup (G1) winner.
Earlier in the $100,000 Audubon for turf sophomores, 3-2 favorite Field Pass had an easier time on the front end, at least after his wayward start and corresponding stewards’ inquiry. The Mike Maker trainee broke outward from post 5, and in the ensuing tangle, Kinenos next door clipped heels and lost Bridgmohan.
Meanwhile, Field Pass went on about his business on an uncontested lead. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione rationed out his speed through steady fractions of :24.12 and :48.41, quickened to open up on the field in 1:12.18 and 1:35.88, and still had a length to spare as he completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.99.
Deep closer Bama Breeze got the run up the hedge that eluded him last time in the War Chant and rallied for second. Pixelate crossed the wire another 2 1/2 lengths astern in third. Next came Natural Power, Fenwick Station, and Summer to Remember. Spanish Kingdom was scratched.
The stewards reviewed the incident affecting Kinenos at the start before declaring the result official, and Field Pass upped his line to 10-4-2-1, $358,610.
“He ran so easy today on the lead,” Gaffalione said. “We saw there wasn’t much speed in the race so I asked him a little bit out of the gate and was able to get clear on the lead. He had plenty of energy left in the stretch.”
Three Diamonds Farm’s Field Pass was registering his third stakes score, following the Feb. 1 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park and Mar. 14 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Turfway’s Polytrack. The gray had beaten future Grade 1 hero Decorated Invader (also victorious Saturday in the Pennine Ridge [G2]) when breaking his maiden at Saratoga, and he’s also placed in last summer’s With Anticipation (G3) and the May 23 War Chant last out.
The Lemon Drop Kid colt was bred by Mark Brown Grier in Maryland and sold for $37,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale. Field Pass was produced by Only Me, a daughter of Runaway Groom who contributes his gray coat.