03/23/2009 11:00PM

Top two from Lane's End moving up


FLORENCE, Ky. - Hold Me Back probably will race next in the April 11 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but his connections are holding out the option of the colt going straight to the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

Hold Me Back, making his first start in nearly four months for owner WinStar Farm and trainer Bill Mott, was sensational going last to first to capture the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on Saturday at Turfway Park. By virtue of the $282,000 winner's share, the colt is virtually assured of making the Derby field, based on the graded-earnings criteria.

Elliott Walden, racing manager for WinStar, said Hold Me Back was vanned Sunday afternoon from Turfway to Keeneland, where he will resume training in the next few days over the Polytrack surface at the Lexington, Ky., track.

"The Blue Grass is probable for us, although any time the 'different surface' question comes up, you've got to consider all your options," said Walden, referring to the Polytrack surfaces at Turfway and Keeneland and the dirt at Churchill Downs.

Mott watched the Lane's End from his home in Florida near Payson Park, where the colt had trained sharply leading up to the Lane's End, which he won by 1 3/4 lengths under Kent Desormeaux. Walden said that while Mott will remain in Florida for the time being, the Mott string at Keeneland will be overseen by assistant Leanna Willaford, who saddled Hold Me Back on Saturday.

"I'm sure Bill will be up frequently from Florida over the next few weeks," said Walden.

One of the primary reasons that WinStar's principals, Bill Casner and Kenny Trout, are in the racing business is to have a Kentucky Derby horse, said Walden, "so we're absolutely thrilled to be in this position."

Meanwhile, the Lane's End runner-up, Flying Private, probably will have to accumulate more graded earnings than the $94,000 he earned Saturday if the colt is to get trainer D. Wayne Lukas back to the Derby.

"We've got a number of options," Lukas said from Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. "We're already mulling it over. We're looking at the Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass, and Lexington.

"This horse is just getting better. He's been such a tank of a horse. He kind of reminds me of Charismatic," the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner for Lukas, "in that he carried so much weight all spring before he finally got it together."

Easily the two most disappointing performances in the Lane's End were turned in by West Side Bernie, sixth as the 2-1 favorite, and Bittel Road, 10th as the 2-1 second choice.

Trainer Kelly Breen said he and owners George and Lori Hall likely have decided on the April 4 Wood Memorial as the last-gasp Derby option for West Side Bernie.

Todd Pletcher said Bittel Road, who never has raced on dirt, could make his next start in the April 18 Lexington on the Keeneland Polytrack or wait for the May 1 American Turf on the Churchill Downs turf.

The Blue Grass or Lexington are the options that trainer Darrin Miller is weighing for Cliffy's Future, winner of the Rushaway Stakes on the Lane's End undercard.

Big day's business feels the pinch

In step with the disquieting trend in North American racing, the most notable business figure - all-sources handle - was down substantially Saturday at Turfway despite solid ontrack turnout and relatively light competition from other tracks.

Total handle on the 12-race program was $7,287,481, down a whopping 26 percent from the $9.8 million bet last year on the Lane's End card.

Attendance was 19,450, up slightly from the 18,680 that turned out last year. They bet $1,060,899, down 7 percent from 2008.

Turfway, like many tracks over the last year or so, has struggled during the economic downturn and has seen a double-digit decrease in all-sources handle at the current winter-spring meet.

The records during the 38-year history of the Lane's End are: attendance, 23,815 (2007), and all-sources handle, $12.9 million (1997).

Lebron out indefinitely

The timing hardly could have been worse for Victor Lebron. Easily the leading jockey at the Turfway meet, Lebron suffered a badly sprained right ankle in a spill at the start of the third race, forcing him not only to miss the rest of the card, but putting him on the sidelines indefinitely. His agent, Jimmy McNerney, said the 24-year-old jockey was scheduled to see an orthopedic specialist Monday in Louisville.

Besides missing out on upcoming mounts at Keeneland and Indiana Downs, Lebron also was unavailable to be honored between races by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Media. With McNerney standing in for him, Lebron was recognized for winning the most races of any jockey on the Kentucky circuit last year with 158.

Also honored by the media organization were Mike Maker, whose 115 wins led all trainers in Kentucky in 2008, and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey (84 wins). The honor was the first for Maker and the ninth in a row for the Ramseys.

Correction: A previous version of this article reversed the attendance figures for the 2008 and 2009 Lane's End programs. Attendance was up this year, not down.