January 27, 2021

Factor This the one to catch in 11-horse Wise Dan

Factor This wired the Muniz Memorial Classic in course-record time at Fair Grounds (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.)

Factor This enters Saturday’s $200,000 Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill Downs on a roll, posting comfortable wins in the Muniz Memorial (G2) and Fair Grounds S. (G3) in his last two starts, and he’s shown high speed both times leading wire-to-wire. The front-running specialist will try to make it three straight against 10 rivals, and regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan will guide the peaking 5-year-old for Brad Cox.

Contested over 1 1/16 miles on turf, the Wise Dan is one of two stakes on Saturday’s 11-race program along with the $100,000 Audubon for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Claimed for $62,500 in 2018, Factor This turned his form around over the winter.

“He just looks like a more mature horse this year,” Bridgmohan said after Factor This breezed a half-mile over Churchill’s turf in a bullet :47.60 on June 7. “He’s filled out and really gained a lot of size. Even from the Fair Grounds this winter, he looks bigger here at Churchill.”

March to the Arch will make a title defense, prevailing by a neck last year at 10-1 odds. The Mark Casse-trained gelding will be a shorter price this time around with Florent Geroux taking over the reins. Third in a pair of Grade 3 events earlier this year, March to the Arch is eligible to rebound following an unplaced effort most recently in the Shoemaker Mile (G2) at Santa Anita.

Mike Maker has a trio entered including Parlor and Hembree, the second- and third-place finishers in a stakes-quality allowance last month. Aquaphobia, second in the May 9 Sunshine Forever at Gulfstream, completes the Maker trio. Graham Motion will send out Grade 3 winners English Bee and Just Howard, and Bill Mott will be represented by Grade 2 scorer Casa Creed.

Field Pass, winner of the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on Polytrack and Dania Beach S. on turf earlier this season, top eight sophomores in the grassy Audubon at 1 1/8 miles. A gray son of Lemon Drop Kid, the Maker trainee exits a fast-closing third in the May 23 War Chant S. at Churchill.

War Chant runner-up Pixelate also merits consideration as well as a pair of stakes-placed competitors, Fenwick Station and Summer to Remember.