09/06/2009 11:00PM

Hold Me Back may return to Turfway


FLORENCE, Ky. - The Kentucky Cup series at Turfway Park always has been something of an overachiever. Starting with the 1994 inaugural with Tabasco Cat and through ensuing years with stars such as Silver Charm and Street Sense, the Kentucky Cup has tended to draw horses of national import.

The likelihood of that trend continuing this year has been clearly endangered, owing to the severe cuts the series was forced to undergo due to the financial malaise plaguing Turfway. Once a five-race series with total purses of more than seven figures, the Kentucky Cup has been reduced to a mere three races worth a maximum of $400,000. The Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies are gone, and the Classic, a $500,000 race at its peak, will be worth just $200,000 - with $50,000 of that in bonuses for horses eligible for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

A glimmer of hope can be found amid all these depressing developments. If Hold Me Back were to run in the Classic, as his connections have said is highly possible, respectability would be salvaged for another year.

Owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Bill Mott, Hold Me Back won the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway and was second in the Blue Grass at Keeneland in back-to-back spring races. After a couple of hiccups, he resurfaced as a Breeders' Cup possibility by finishing second to Summer Bird in the Aug. 29 Travers at Saratoga.

The Grade 2 KC Classic will be run over the synthetic Polytrack surface and six weeks before the Nov. 7 BC Classic, which will be run over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. Also, Hold Me Back, as a KTDF nominee, is eligible for the full $200,000 purse. Those favorable factors come into play as Turfway officials keep their fingers crossed in getting a "name" runner to help hold the series together.

"It'd be great to have another Lane's End winner return, just like we had two years ago when Hard Spun came back" and defeated Street Sense in the KC Classic, track president Bob Elliston said.

WinStar Farm racing manager Elliott Walden said Hold Me Back is being tentatively pointed to the Turfway race, with the $150,000 Ontario Derby at Woodbine on Sept. 27 being an alternate consideration.

The other Kentucky Cup races that remain - the Distaff and Sprint - are both Grade 3 events with $100,000 purses.

Track's simulcast deals in place

Turfway announced Monday that its simulcast signal will be available on all the major account-wagering services: TVG, Twinspires, XpressBet, and YouBet. Contracts with all the platform companies have been signed through the end of the 2010 winter-spring in early April.

TVG retains exclusive broadcasting rights.

Track celebrates 50 years

Turfway opened in 1959 as Latonia Racecourse, which was built to replace what is now called Old Latonia. With this being the 50-year anniversary of the track's founding, Turfway is displaying banners with this clever saying: "50 years and running."

"Our ad agency came up with that," Elliston said.

An interesting nine-minute video history of Turfway is available on the home page of the track website, turfway.com.

* Victor Lebron is intent on picking up where he left off last March at Turfway. Lebron dominated the winter-spring meet and finished as the leading rider, despite being sidelined for three months when suffering an ankle injury in a spill on the March 21 Lane's End program.

Lebron, 25, returned to action in late June at Indiana Downs and has regained his form in recent weeks, winning with a combined 43 of 232 mounts (18 percent) at Ellis Park and Hoosier Park. His agent, Jimmy McNerney, said Lebron will continue to split time between the Kentucky and Indiana circuits this fall.

* The only stakes at the meet besides the Kentucky Cup races comes Sunday with the $100,000 Turfway Fall Championship, a Win and You're In race toward the Breeders' Cup Marathon. Twenty-five horses have been nominated to the 1 1/2-mile Fall Championship, with the potential top contenders being Alcomo, Antrim County, Furthest Land, Gangbuster, Medjool, and Nite Light.