The connections of favored Hold Me Back were gracious in defeat following the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 11 and looking forward to running their colt next in the Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) in three weeks. The 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winning longshot, General Quarters , while carrying the colors of Bill Casner's and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm, which bred the colt in partnership with Haras Santa Maria de Araras.
“I’m pleased with the way my horse ran,” said Hold Me Back’s trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott “He ran a good race for a horse coming back off of a tough race three weeks ago first out (in 2009). A lot of times, they’ll regress a little bit. Maybe this wasn’t his best race, and maybe it doesn’t need to be, so I think we’ve got to look at the upside. The good thing is that he ran a good, honest, hard race. He’ll have a little more pace down the road, which won’t hurt him at all.”
Hold Me Back ran near the back of the 11-horse Blue Grass field early and had to run on the outside much of the way in the 1 1/8-mile race. As he charged down the stretch, he cut into the winner’s lead but never really threatened. Hold Me Back, which scored in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) in his 2009 debut March 21, is Derby bound, according to Mott as long as the colt is healthy following the Blue Grass.
“I think that’s what everybody’s thinking,” the trainer said. “The camp is anxious to go to Churchill Downs.”
Mott used to train horses for General Quarters’ owner and trainer, Tom McCarthy, who has only the Blue Grass winner in his stable.
“It’s wonderful,” said Mott of McCarthy’s Blue Grass victory. “He’s got a little farm outside of Louisville, and when I realized it was him that won the race at Tampa, the Sam F. Davis (gr. III, with General Quarters), I was ecstatic. He’s a great guy.”
Elliott Walden, WinStar’s vice president and racing manager, also was pleased with Hold Me Back’s effort and expressed excitement about McCarthy’s success, which was a little bit like David slaying Goliath because WinStar is a large Thoroughbred operation that plays a major role in the industry.
“I’m happy for the little guy,” Walden said. “If we couldn’t win, it’s great he did. It’s a great story, and that’s what racing needs. And WinStar needs it just as much as anybody because it’s not just all about the big guys (if the Thoroughbred industry is to succeed as a sport and a business).
Hold Me Back “ran well,” Walden said. “The pace was slow, so they (the other runners in the field) didn’t really spread out like they do when they go a little quicker, so when he made his move, he had to come around all those horses. I thought he finished good. That’s what I asked Kent (Desormeaux), ‘Did he finish all the way to the wire?’ and he said he did. It was an exciting race. We’re disappointed we didn’t win it, but I was very pleased with his (Hold Me Back’s) effort.“
Desormeaux, who has ridden Hold Me Back in three of his five career races, was excited about the colt’s prospects as a Triple Crown competitor.
“I wanted to make sure he got tired,” the jockey told Walden. “I wanted to use this effort to make him blow. I galloped out, but I couldn’t make him tired. He was too fit. He’s most likely to win the Belmont (gr. I), but you’re going to win the Derby.”
Said Walden: “I’m glad he’s enthused.”