Factor It In Chases the Grade in G3 General George

February 14, 2023

Factor It In powers home to win the Fire Plug last time out (Jim Duley)

By David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— Michael Scheffres’ claimer-turned-multiple stakes winner Factor It In, narrowly beaten in a pair of out-of-town graded stakes last year, will have home track advantage when he makes his return to graded company in the $250,000 General George (G3) Saturday, Feb. 18 at Laurel Park.

The 48th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up and the 69th renewal of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs, co-headline a Winter Carnival program featuring six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.

Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:25 p.m.

The 7-year-old Factor It In owns 11 career victories, eight coming in 13 tries at Laurel. Seven of those wins have come since being claimed by trainer Carlos Mancilla for $25,000 out of a November 2019 triumph.

“Me and my owner we always talk when we claim a horse. I went to the races that day and we got lucky to get him, because two people wanted the horse, me and somebody else. Thank God we got him,” Mancilla said. “What a claim.

“He has had little issues, but we fix them. [Last year] I said to my owner, ‘Let’s give him a few months off,’ and he said, ‘Yes, why not.’ We ended up giving him like 10 months, and that helped him. It helped a lot,” he added. “He’s a changed horse. He’s a totally different horse.”

Factor It In went unraced from September 2021 to July 2022 and returned in top form, banking close to half of his $490,120 in purse earnings with three wins, a second and two thirds from six starts. Each of his wins came in stakes, starting with the seven-furlong Challedon Oct. 1 at Laurel.

From there Factor It In was third in back-to-back Grade 3 attempts sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct, beaten a half-length in the Oct. 29 Bold Ruler and a neck in the Nov. 26 Fall Highweight, before returning home to win the six-furlong Dave’s Friend Dec. 30 and 6 ½-furlong Fire Plug Jan. 21.

“I think that as the horse has gotten older, he’s gotten better,” Mancilla said. “I’m very confident. I think he’s going to be tough. I know the other horses in there are also tough. It’s a stakes race and they get the tough horses, but my horse is tough, too. We’re home, and he loves Laurel. We can’t wait. It’s going to be exciting.”

Angel Cruz, aboard for each of the last two wins, gets the return call from outermost Post 8 on Factor It In, who ran sixth in the 2020 General George.

“Every trainer, he wants to win all the big races like that. It would be nice. We would be so excited, my owner and all my family,” Mancilla said. “I’m lucky, all my family works together. My brother, my two sisters, my wife, my daddy, everybody. To win this race, the General George, it would mean a lot to me, and everybody.”

Eastern Bay wins an allowance at Pimlico May 28, 2022 (Maryland Jockey Club)

Another horse with an affinity for Laurel seeking a breakthrough graded triumph after multiple placings is Eastern Bay, one of three General George entries for owner-trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash of Built Wright Stables. The 9-year-old Eastern Bay has 18 wins, 14 at Laurel, where he was beaten a nose when second in the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3).

In his two most recent starts, Eastern Bay was runner-up to 2022 champion sprinter Elite Power in the seven-furlong Vosburgh (G2) Oct. 8 at Aqueduct and beaten a nose when second in the six-furlong Bold Ruler three weeks later. William Humphrey rides from Post 7.

“He could be in the best form he’s been. He might have been one of top sprinters I think last year when we had to stop on him. He ran down in that last New York race, so it took some time to get things healed,” Cash said. “He’s basically been ready probably for over a month so we think he’s really ready now. We’re looking for a big race from Eastern Bay.”

Cash will also be represented by Pirate Rick and Sir Alfred James. The 6-year-old Pirate Rick strung together four straight wins by 17 combined lengths before having his streak snapped when fourth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Toboggan (G3) Jan. 28 at Aqueduct, his stakes debut.

“I don’t know if he can go seven furlongs. I think he can the way he ran in New York. Chances are he’s going to be on the lead. He’s blazing fast out of the gate,” Cash said. “I think he’s a legitimate contender. He’s a horse that I’ve had for almost 2 years now. I think [he] is probably my best horse. This year we’ll find out. He’s a tough horse.”

Jose Gomez is named on Pirate Rick from Post 6.

A late-running sort like Eastern Bay, who will likely benefit from the presence of Pirate Rick, Sir Alfred James was a 2 ¼-length open allowance winner sprinting six furlongs Jan. 29 at Laurel who ran fourth in a Feb. 8 allowance at Charles Town. The 7-year-old gelding is a two-time stakes winner whose lone graded-stakes placing came when third to Cordmaker in last year’s General George.

“It wasn’t his best race but the horse that won [Likeable] was in the Breeders’ Cup as a 2-year-old and is a solid horse,” Cash said. “At Charles Town, because it’s such a small track, sometimes you just get caught up in the bullring part of it. If you don’t come out good and if the horses don’t spread out, there’s just not enough room in that backstretch to come around. I was kind of using it 10 days out as like a workout instead of working him [Feb. 11] like my other horses. We’ll see how he goes.”

J.D. Acosta has the assignment on Sir Alfred James from Post 1.

Beren takes the Jump Start Oct. 18 at Parx (EQUI-PHOTO)

St. Omer’s Farm and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren, second to Factor It In in the Dave’s Friend, returns to Laurel for the General George. Based at Parx with trainer Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr., the 5-year-old owns seven career stakes wins including the 2022 De Francis by 2 ¾ lengths over a field that included Wondrwherecraigis and Pickin’ Time.

“A lot of things came together for him that day. We got a couple races under him and he was coming up to it perfectly, and then we caught a surface that he really liked, too. When all those things come together he’s a very difficult horse to deal with,” Reid said. “He does seem to handle the track very well down there. I think seven-eighths is not a problem for him. He likes that kind of middle-distance thing.”

Regular rider Frankie Pennington will be in town to ride Beren (Post 3), who kicked off 2023 with a front-running 1 ½-length victory in a 6 ½-furlong allowance Jan. 31 at Parx.

“He’s doing very well. He came out of that race very good. I think it was a good kind of confidence builder,” Reid said. “He had a couple of rough trips his couple of starts before then so we wanted to put him in a good spot and get his head on straight before we take a shot in this one coming up. He came out if it really good and has trained very forwardly.”

Euro Stable’s John the Bear, coming out of back-to-back optional claiming allowance victories at Laurel for trainer Claudio Gonzalez, Fire Plug runner-up Yodel E.A. Who and Momos, second to John the Bear Jan. 16, complete the field.

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