Where does The Factor's Rebel fit in with other Derby preps?

This morning I went through and updated the 2011 Triple Crown spreadsheet to include The Factor's win in yesterday's Rebel Stakes.  While the data for the Bris figure has yet to be filled in, we can still take a high-level comparison of that race and the other performances at the same distance by Derby contenders this spring and last fall.  

2011 Triple Crown

In terms of raw winning times at a mile and a sixteenth, The Factor's Rebel was the 2nd fastest winning time at the distance by a Derby contender over the last six months; only Premier Pegasus' win in the San Felipe (on the ridiculously fast Santa Anita main track) was faster.  Below are the Top 5 raw 8 1/2 furlong clockings;

Date Race Track Dist Winner Time
3/12 G2-San Felipe SA 8.5 Premier Pegasus 1:41.2
3/19 G2-Rebel OP 8.5 The Factor 1:42.4
11/6 G1-BC Juvenile CD 8.5 Uncle Mo 1:42.6
11/6 Real Quiet HOL 8.5 Comma to the Top 1:43.4
2/19 G2-Risen Star FG 8.5 Mucho Macho Man 1:43.8

 

None of these horses really come close to the raw time of Premier Pegasus, but the inherent speed of the surface he was running over contributes as much to that difference as anything else.  In terms of simple, unadjusted raw speed, The Factor's Rebel was a huge performance.

The second clocking that I want to look at is the half-mile split for the same group of contenders at the same distance.  Below are the fastest elapsed half-mile splits for winners at a mile and a sixteenth (not the half-mile split of the leader in that race):

Date Race Track Dist. Winner 1/2 Split
3/12 G2-San Felipe SA 8.5 Premier Pegasus 45.89
3/19 G2-Rebel OP 8.5 The Factor 46.77
11/20 G3-Delta Downs Jackpot DeD 8.5 Gourmet Dinner 47.02
1/15 California Derby GG 8.5 Positive Response 47.07
11/6 Real Quiet HOL 8.5 Comma to the Top 47.52

 

Once again, the abnormally fast San Felipe shows it's face.  Consider this piece of information when you are looking at those numbers: The Factor went 46.77 while on the lead of the Rebel.  Premier Pegasus went 45.89 while sitting over sevenths lengths back!  That's all you need to know about the speed of the Santa Anita main track - a horse was over seven lengths off the early pace at the half-mile mark and clocked a sub :46 second split.  That's absurd.

Uncle Mo's 47.53 half-mile split in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile ranks 6th on this list, just missing the Top 5 cut.

Did you expect Delta Downs Jackpot winner Gourmet Dinner to rank third in raw half-mile splits?  Neither did I.

Keeping with the half-mile split, let's take a look at the top ten raw splits off all winners, at all distances:

Date Race Track Dist. Winner 1/2 Split
3/12 G2-San Felipe SA 8.5 Premier Pegasus 45.89
2/12 G2-Lewis SA 9.0 Anthony's Cross 45.90
10/9 G1-Champagne BEL 8.0 Uncle Mo 45.92
12/29 N1X Allowance SA 8.0 Awesome Patriot 46.42
3/19 G2-Rebel OP 8.5 The Factor 46.77
9/11 G3-Arl/Wash Futurity AP 8.0 Major Gain 46.78
10/31 G3-Iroquois CD 8.0 Astrology 46.86
1/7 N1X Allowance GP 8.0 Black N Beauty 46.91
11/20 G3-Delta Downs Jackpot DeD 8.5 Gourmet Dinner 47.02
1/15 California Derby GG 8.5 Positive Response 47.07

 

The top 2 half-mile splits come from Santa Anita, as does three of the top four, continuing the trend of quick times from Southern California.  Uncle Mo pops his head in with his blistering performance in the Champagne (a one-turn mile), as does Astrology (who will make his debut in the Sunland Derby next Saturday).  Gourmet Dinner's Delta Jackpot win also falls into the Top 10.

The next fraction I want to delve into the the 3/4 split, or what Tom Brohamer (author of Modern Pace Handicapping) would refer to as the "turn time", since it's usually the fraction that corresponds with the field rounding the far turn.  In a large majority of races, horses that make big moves on the turn (or are able to sustain a high rate of speed on the turn) put themselves in excellent position to win. That concept fits a bit better when we're talking about sprint races, as opposed to those run at two-turns.

Below are the Top 5 "turn times" (or 3/4-mile) internal splits by winning horses at the 8.5 furlong distance:

Date Race Track Dist. Winner 3/4 Split
11/28 Display WO 8.5 Tiz Blessed 23.27
3/12 G2-San Felipe SA 8.5 Premier Pegasus 23.87
11/6 Real Quiet HOL 8.5 Comma to the Top 24.09
12/18 G1-CashCall Futurity HOL 8.5 Comma to the Top 24.16
3/12 G2-Tampa Bay Derby TAM 8.5 Watch Me Go 24.16

 

This is a bit of a more eclectic bunch as colts like Tiz Blessed and Watch Me Go, horses that aren't really considered "bit time" contenders, are spinkled in amongst Premier Pegaus and Comma to the Top.  When looking at Comma to the Top, you get the feeling that he peaked a bit early this winter as his most recent efforts are no where near the level of his performances last fall.  Part of that could be the surface switch; Comma to the Top's best races were over the Hollywood Park synthetic track and not Santa Anita's dirt.

The 3/4-mile split for Uncle Mo's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (24.41) would rank 10th of 17 on this list.  The Factor's Rebel is 8th (24.22).

Like the half-mile split above, here are the Top 10 3/4-mile splits at all distances:

Date Race Track Dist. Horse 3/4 Split
11/28 Display WO 8.5 Tiz Blessed 23.27
11/27 G2-Remsen AQU 9.0 To Honor and Serve 23.49
1/30 G3-Holy Bull GP 8.0 Dialed In 23.67
2/5 N1X Allowance GP 9.0 Shackleford 23.76
11/6 G2-Nashua AQU 8.0 To Honor and Serve 23.83
1/21 N1X Allowance GP* 9.0 Soldat 23.85
3/12 G2-San Felipe SA 8.5 Premier Pegasus 23.87
12/29 N1X Allowance SA 9.0 Awesome Patriot 24.02
2/12 G2-Lewis SA 9.0 Anthony's Cross 24.04
2/12 G3-El Camino Real GG 9.0 Silver Medallion 24.07

 

*Track listed as "sloppy".

Looking at those splits, you can see why so many people were disappointed with To Honor and Serve's lackluster performance in the Fountain of Youth; he'd shown a lot of promise last fall in the Remsen and Nashua (even though both of those races came against short fields).

Dialed In's Holy Bull (a one-turn mile) makes its way into the Top 10, as does Soldat's win over a sloppy track in that big two-turn allowance race in late January. 

The final split we'll look at is the closing 3/16ths of a mile for all winners at 8.5 furlongs.  Below are the Top 5 finishing fractions:

Date Race Track Dist. Winner Last Split
2/19 G2-Risen Star FG 8.5 Mucho Macho Man 30.33
11/6 G1-BC Juvenile CD 8.5 Uncle Mo 30.66
2/5 G3-Gotham AQU 8.5 Stay Thirsty 30.89
10/2 N1-Norfolk OTH 8.5 Jaycito 30.90
11/27 G2-Ky Gold Cup CD 8.5 Santiva 31.06

 

The table above, when combined with the table of Top 5 half-mile splits at 8.5 furlongs, really highlights the strength of Uncle Mo.  His half-mile split ranks 6th at the distance and his final split is 2nd.  Mucho Macho Man had the fastest closing time, but he was no where near the fastest at a half-mile.  Same thing for Stay Thirsty, Jaycito, and Santiva.  And while The Factor and Premier Pegasus ran faster in the early stakes, they didn't finish up as strong as the Juvenile winner.  Uncle Mo is the only colt that's been able to combine  the ability to run fast early and late, in terms of raw, unadjusted times. 

As for Premier Pegasus, his closing time (in a race where he won by coming off the pace) ranked 10th of 17 at the distance.  The Factor's Rebel came in at 7th.

So how good was The Factor's performance in the Rebel?  It's clearly one of the top races by a three-year-old over the last six months and he's rightfully considered a serious Derby contender.  His ability to set a blistering pace and still have something left in the tank is a powerful asset, that much is a given.  But will he be able to duplicate that after an extra 3/16th of a mile and under more pressure in the early stages?   That's still the key question, one that the Arkansas Derby may or may not help to answer.

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