01/18/2006 1:00AM

Candidates line up to be next Alex

Lou Hodges Jr.
Lawyer Ron, the Risen Star winner, will be one to watch at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Who's got the big horse? That's the big question at Oaklawn Park, where the winners of four of the last six Triple Crown races have been based. Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2004, and Afleet Alex won the Preakness and Belmont in 2005.

Both horses were standout winners of the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby, and their trainers, John Servis and Tim Ritchey, are both back at Oaklawn this meet with promising 3-year-olds. Bob Holthus, who sent out Greater Good to win the first two legs of Oaklawn's series for 3-year-olds last year, the Southwest and Grade 3 Rebel, has the buzz horse this meet in Lawyer Ron. Trainer Neil Howard, who is new to Oaklawn, is developing the blue-blooded Music School.

Lawyer Ron earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 last Saturday for his eight-length win in the Grade 3 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs. It was the third straight win for Lawyer Ron, a Langfuhr colt who one start before romped by more than eight lengths in the $100,000 Diamond Jo going a mile at Evangeline Downs on Dec. 31.

Lawyer Ron also won a two-turn, entry-level allowance by more than 10 lengths at the Fair Grounds meet Dec. 9. In his only other start on dirt, he was a seven-furlong maiden winner at Keeneland. He is among the biggest local hopes for the Arkansas Derby.

"He's won most of his races fairly easily," said Holthus. "It just depends on if he can continue improving. I think he went from a 92 Beyer to a 97 to a 106. It looks like he's on the right path."

Holthus said Lawyer Ron is being pointed for the $250,000 Southwest at one mile at Oaklawn on Feb. 20.

Ritchey will be at the Eclipse Awards dinner in Beverly Hills on Monday night, where Afleet Alex is a candidate for 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year. Ritchey is pointing Menacing, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, for the Southwest.

"He won first time out around two turns at Delaware and then ran fourth in the Champagne," said Ritchey. "He's the best 3-year-old I have here as far as distance goes. He's got a lot of potential."

Ritchey, who has a promising 3-year-old sprinter in Urban Guy, also has a division of horses at Gulfstream. Among the 3-year-olds he has based there are Kid Lemonade, who is stakes-placed; Roamin Murphy, a son of Grindstone; and Zodiac Zack, a half-brother to $500,000 earner Gulch Approval.

Servis has four 3-year-olds who could develop into players this meet. Fidrych, a son of Grand Slam, has won his last two starts and will run in the $50,000 Dixieland on Friday. On the same card, Jolted and Jostled, a son of Storm Cat, will make his two-turn debut. He is the first foal from Jostle, a Grade 1 winner of $1.3 million trained by Servis.

"I see a lot of her in him, in his mannerisms," said Servis.

Servis's other 3-year-olds of note include Kennebunkport, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Yes It's True who could make his first start Saturday, and the unraced Sailing Through, a strapping son of Saint Ballado.

Music School is a possible for the Southwest, said Howard. In his one race, he overcame a stumble at the start to win at Churchill Downs in June.

"He's impeccably bred," said Robby Albarado, who was aboard Music School in June.

Music School is a son of A.P. Indy out of a half-sister to Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year. Mineshaft is also by A.P. Indy. Albarado rode Mineshaft and said Music School looks like Mineshaft in a lot of ways, and has the same kind of confidence as Mineshaft.

The $300,000 Rebel at 1 1/16 miles March 18 is the final local prep for the Arkansas Derby on April 15.