05/09/2009 12:00AM

Ball Four hands Rail Trip first loss in LeRoy


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Ball Four led throughout Saturday's $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park to record his third career stakes win, and give the heavily favored Rail Trip the first loss of his career.

Ball Four ($34) set a reasonable pace of 24.38 and 47.94 seconds and held off a sustained threat from Rail Trip to win the Grade 2 race by 1 1/4 lengths. Ball Four ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.58.

Dakota Phone finished third in the field of six, 1 3/4 lengths behind Ball Four.

Rail Trip, making his graded stakes debut after winning his first five starts, was second throughout. He got within a half-length of Ball Four on the final turn, but could get no closer, trailing by a length with a furlong remaining.

"I thought we had him anytime we wanted on the turn," said Ron Ellis, Rail Trip's trainer.

The Mervyn LeRoy was Ball Four's first start for Flying Zee Stable and trainer Patrick Biancone, who acquired him privately earlier this year from Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

"He's a lovely old horse," Biancone said. "He runs well fresh."

An 8-year-old gelding by Grand Slam, Ball Four has won 7 of 25 starts and $711,520. Biancone trained Ball Four from his career debut in 2004 until 2007, a span that included a win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park in 2006.

Ball Four raced for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2008, while Biancone was suspended, a season that included the gelding's win in the Grade 3 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland last fall. Ball Four made his final start for Pletcher in January, finishing ninth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita.

The Mervyn LeRoy Handicap was Ball Four's first start since the San Pasqual.