01/24/2004 1:00AM

Laurel: Gators N Bears holds on


Gators N Bears, bet from 5-2 on the morning line to 3-5 at post time, ran like a good thing should, opening a three-length lead in the stretch and holding on to win the $75,000 Hoover.

Ridden aggressively by Rick Wilson, Gators N Bears hustled out of the gate to press front-runner Native Heir on the front end for a quarter-mile, moved to command midway on the turn and opened up, and then dug in tenaciously to beat the fast-closing My Good Trick by a half-length.

My Good Trick, coupled with Native Heir as the lesser half of a Michael Gill-owned entry, advanced five wide from fifth place going into the stretch and was getting to the winner at the wire. Sassy Hound finished another 2 3/4 lengths back in third in the field of 10.

"Once he makes the lead early, he gets a little lazy," said Gators N Bears' trainer, Leo Nechamkin. "He's definitely a very nice horse, and Rick keeps him going, so I wasn't worried."

Gators N Bears ran the six furlongs in 1:10.14 and paid $3.40. The exacta paid $12 and the trifecta $34.80. Gators N Bears has now won 8 of 18 career starts and has been out of the money only twice.