With regular rider Kent Desormeaux aboard, the Giant's Causeway colt worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 3/5. According to Churchill clockers, the fractional splits were :13, :25 1/5, and :37 1/5, with a six-furlong “gallop out” time of 1:14 4/5. He worked in company with stablemate Flying Warrior.
“It was very good,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who was on a pony alongside the Derby contender as he went to the track. “The last part was good, and it was under a hold the whole way. He let him out a notch after the last eighth of a mile, and he finished up well enough on his own.
"He galloped out very good. (Desormeaux) said he had to pull him up after galloping out a mile. He wasn’t pulling him up.”
One thing Mott was looking for with Hold Me Back's first work on the main track at Churchill was how the colt handled the surface.
“He was smooth and handled the track very well,” Mott said. “He looked good over it. The main thing I was pleased about is that Kent felt he was handling it well. We would like to have a good firm racetrack on Derby day, which generally you have. He has trained well on dirt, and we are still optimistic he can handle the dirt.”
Hold Me Back broke his maiden in his first career start, winning a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack track test at Arlington Park. In his second start, the colt showed an affinity for Keeneland’s Polytrack with a two-length triumph.
Elevated into stakes company, Hold Me Back was unplaced in Old Fashioned’s Remsen Stakes (gr. II) win on the dirt as the 2-year-old campaign concluded. Back on Polytrack, Hold Me Back began 2009 with a late run to win the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II). Previous to the Derby, the colt made another late run but came up short, finishing second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
“It was disappointing,” Mott said of the Blue Grass. “He had trained very well for it and he didn’t show up that day. But he is still quite an immature horse, and I think at this point we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar and Haras Santa Maria de Araras, Hold Me Back was purchased for $400,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt was produced from the unraced Unbridled’s Song mare Restraint, who has produced five winners from as many starters.