FLORENCE, Ky. -- Better late than never. Hold Me Back, scarcely mentioned, if at all, in the Kentucky Derby discussion, ran himself right into contention with a sensational rally making his 3-year-old debut Saturday in the 38th running of the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, the annual showcase event at Turfway Park.
Prepared at Payson Park in south Florida by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, Hold Me Back roared from 11th to post a 1 3/4-length score under Kent Desormeaux. A Giant's Causeway colt owned by WinStar Farm, Hold Me Back was making his first start since finishing a distant fifth in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct last November.
Hold Me Back led a parade of longshots in returning $20.20 as fourth choice in a field of 12. Flying Private, a 24-1 shot, was second, another four lengths before Parade Bee (17-1). Parade Clown (9-1) completed a superfecta that returned $4,049.46 for a 10-cent wager.
The 1 1/8-mile Lane's End was a big disappointment for the two 2-1 favorites, West Side Bernie and Bittel Road. Neither was a factor in running sixth and 10th, respectively.
Hold Me Back, a $400,000 purchase at the 2007 Keeneland yearling sales, won his first two starts at 2, both over Polytrack, before ending his season in the Remsen. In Mott's absence at Turfway, Elliott Walden, the former trainer who serves as racing manager for WinStar, said afterward the colt probably would be pointed to the April 11 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, with the May 2 Derby "definitely on our minds."
Hold Me Back finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.63 over Polytrack. The $282,000 winner's share from the Grade 2 Lane's End virtually guarantees him a spot in the Derby, which is determined by graded earnings.
Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who won the Derby for the third time last year when he was aboard Big Brown, said he was unsure how Hold Me Back might handle the dirt surface at Churchill.
"You never know till you ride them on it," said Desormeaux. "The way he ran today, I'd be looking forward to the Blue Grass, that's for sure."
Before an estimated crowd of some 20,000, and amid dry and cool conditions, Orthodox led the Lane's End field to the far turn, where Proceed Bee and Parade Clown took command. Then Flying Private, with Israel Ocampo riding for D. Wayne Lukas, made a big move, but he was no match for the outside surge of Hold Me Back.