Brian’s Derby preps: The Lane’s End recap

The Lane’s End Recap, by Brian Nadeau

One of the problems with giving away $500,000 in graded stakes money in a Kentucky Derby prep is that the winner is automatically going to be qualified for a Derby starting berth. And that’s what we saw on Saturday in the Lane’s End, when Hold Me Back made a strong late rally to score by 1 ¾ lengths over longshot Flying Private. The winner was making his first start since finishing over 15 lengths behind Old Fashioned in the Remsen last November.

This is not to say Hold Me Back doesn’t deserve a spot in the Derby, but he’s now 3-for-3 on synthetics and his lone dirt try was in the Remsen. Reportedly he will either train up to the Derby or run in the Blue Grass as his last prep. Either route seems like a monumental task and nothing short of an extremely difficult way to wear Roses.

As for the race itself, it was like many others on synthetic surfaces: slow early, fast late and extremely hard to figure. The two most accomplished horses were co-favorites Bittel Road and West Side Bernie. Not only were they the best two horses in the race, but they also came in with very solid credentials on a synthetic surface, especially West Side Bernie, who won the Grade III Kentucky Cup Juvenile over the Turfway strip last fall. So how did they fare on Saturday? Well, West Side Bernie looked awful and checked in seventh while Bittel Road was 10th. So right there the race has to be questioned a bit.

As for the winner, Hold Me Back rallied boldly from 11th to get up in the final furlong over Flying Private, whose claim to fame entering Saturday was a second-place finish in Oaklawn’s prestigious Mountain Valley Stakes at 6 furlongs. Yet there he was in deep stretch looking a winner at almost 25-1. It was 4 lengths back to Proceed Bee, who deserves credit for running near the pace for much of the way.

The frightening thing is that Hold Me Back probably deserves a long look should he go in the Blue Grass, if for no other reason than his love for the fake stuff. Racing on conventional dirt and going 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs would be a completely different story.

Note from Teresa: Check back in the next couple of days for updates on the Road to the Roses standings…probably not much change from last week, but with a major weekend of preps coming up, we can likely expect some movement. Watch out for the entries, and don’t forget to activate your horses!

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