04/20/2008 11:00PM

Behindatthebar takes Lexington

Behindatthebar puts himself in the Derby picture with a come-from-behind victory in the Lexington Stakes.

A little more than a week ago, Todd Pletcher was on the brink of not having a single starter in the Derby. But when Behindatthebar, ridden by David Flores, charged from far back Saturday to win the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, Pletcher suddenly had three candidates for the Derby.

Pletcher, who sent out the one-two starters, Monba and Cowboy Cal, the previous Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, said after the Lexington that he was unsure whether he would recommend that Behindatthebar proceed to the Derby. Pletcher said he and the ownership partners - Padua Stables, Michael Shustek, and W. Don Stanley - would mull a decision in due course.

If they so decide, Behindatthebar can go. He earned $201,500 from the $325,000 total purse and now has graded earnings of $204,500, which would allow him into the Derby field under the graded-earnings criteria that governs entry into the field, which is limited to 20. Behindatthebar, purchased privately in February, is a Kentucky-bred by Forest Wildcat.

Behindatthebar, coming off an entry-level allowance victory over Cushion Track at Santa Anita, returned $13.60 as fifth choice after finishing the 1 1/16-mile Lexington in 1:42.14 over Polytrack. Samba Rooster gamely held second, a length behind the winner, despite setting a swift pace from the outset, while Riley Tucker was third, another half-length back in the field of 11 3-year-olds.

Before an ontrack crowd of 26,072, largest of the meet, Samba Rooster set fractions of 22.78 seonds, 45.21, and 1:09.48 under Garrett Gomez. Down the stretch, as Samba Rooster tried gamely to hold on, Behindatthebar was the only one to push past. Turning down the backstretch, Behindatthebar had been 10th, 15 lengths back.

"They were way, way out there," said Flores. "This horse was on cruise control, then he started to pick them up on his own. When he started running, he went to a different stride."

After Riley Tucker, the order of finish was Racecar Rhapsody, Big Glen, Tomcito, Salute the Sarge, Atoned, St. Joe, Red Sandy, and Felon.

Pletcher, who tied a Derby record last year by having five starters, won three other races Saturday at Keeneland.

The Lexington is the last major prep on the Derby trail, although the Grade 3 Withers, to be run next Saturday at Aqueduct, still remains.