05/09/2006 11:00PM

Don't count Lawyer Ron out

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Lawyer Ron, here at Churchill with rider Betsy Crouch up, was found to have an inflamed ankle.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While Barbaro returned to light training for the first time since his smashing Kentucky Derby victory with an easy two-mile jog Wednesday at the Fair Hill training center in northeastern Maryland, the prospective field for the continued to take shape, with Lawyer Ron apparently back into the mix.

Trainer Bob Holthus had all but ruled out Lawyer Ron from the May 20 Preakness on Tuesday, saying that inflammation in a hind ankle had been diagnosed, but by Wednesday, he said the problem may not be serious enough to preclude a Preakness run.

Holthus, a trainer for 54 years, said there was an honest difference of opinion among veterinarians about how serious the ankle condition is. He said that if Lawyer Ron returns to training Thursday at Churchill Downs, "that's probably a good sign we'll run."

Meanwhile, Barbaro, the 6 1/2-length winner of the 132nd Derby at Churchill and a heavy favorite for the Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore, was sent through an easy twice-around jog over the one-mile dirt course at Fair Hill in Elkton, Md. Exercise rider Peter Brette was aboard Barbaro while trainer Michael Matz accompanied them alongside on a stable pony.

"He looks like he came out of the race well," said Matz. "I think he still has something left in the tank. Right now we have to take the Preakness, and hopefully if we can get by the Preakness we have three weeks" before the June 10 Belmont Stakes.

Including Lawyer Ron, eight other 3-year-olds could challenge Barbaro in the Preakness at Pimlico. The others are Bernardini, Brother Derek, Hemingway's Key, Like Now, Sweetnorthernsaint, Lewis Michael, and either of the Bob Baffert duo of Point Determined or Bob and John. Baffert told Pimlico officials he probably would decide this weekend on whether Point Determined or Bob and John will run. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Wednesday that he has eliminated Simon Pure from Preakness consideration.

Lewis Michael under consideration

Lewis Michael, whose connections wanted to run in the Derby but were thwarted by a lack of graded-stakes earnings, could jump into the Triple Crown in the Preakness Stakes, trainer Wayne Catalano said Wednesday.

"We're leaning that way," said Catalano.

Lewis Michael has been breezing regularly in Chicago since his fourth-place finish in the Illinois Derby, and owner-breeder Frank Calabrese apparently has shifted his focus from the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont to the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Lewis Michael, who would probably be ridden by Mark Guidry if he goes to the Preakness, worked five furlongs at Arlington last Friday in 1:00, fastest of 43 works at the distance. It has been that kind of work in the morning that has emboldened Lewis Michael's people to step their horse up in class. Lewis Michael won a minor Churchill Downs turf stakes last fall, and has made 5 of his 7 career starts on grass, but Catalano said he believes Lewis Michael's Illinois Derby performance was better than it appears, and is willing to take a shot in a Preakness that could have a short field.

"He's training so good on the dirt," Catalano said. "The verdict's still out on him."

If Lewis Michael indeed winds up in Maryland, he would travel by van to Louisville, then fly on to Baltimore on Tuesday, Catalano said.

Brother Derek takes it easy

Also at Churchill, Brother Derek, who figures as second choice to Barbaro in the Preakness, walked the shed row and isn't even scheduled to gallop until at least Sunday, trainer Dan Hendricks said from California. Hendricks said Brother Derek would be walked under tack Thursday, have easy jogs both Friday and Saturday, then resume galloping Sunday.

"He doesn't need much work," said Hendricks.

Brother Derek will be flown Wednesday to Baltimore along with what is expected to be a sizable contingent of Churchill horses scheduled to race in May 19-20 stakes at Pimlico.

Sweetnorthernsaint jogs

Sweetnorthernsaint, seventh as the 5.50-1 favorite in the Derby, resumed training Wednesday, jogging an easy mile at Laurel Park, his home base.

Trainer Michael Trombetta said Sweetnorthernsaint probably will follow an easy training regimen of jogs and gallops into the Preakness and doubted the colt would breeze in the interim.

"It looked like he was glad to get back out," said Trombetta.

Trombetta said he is inclined to wait to ship Sweetnorthernsaint the 25 miles from Laurel to Pimlico early on the morning of the Preakness, although he has not made a final decision on that.

Bernardini finishes work strongly

At Belmont Park, Withers Stakes winner Bernardini looked sharp in a five-furlong work over the main track timed by Belmont clockers in 1:01.80.

Working under exercise rider Simon Harris, Bernardini went his opening quarter in 26 seconds and came home his final three furlongs in 35.80 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.60.

"Never moved at all on him," Harris said. "I tried to go off as easy as I could. I just let him creep away from there and I kept him wide. We turned in, he changed leads, and that was it. He's as nice a 3-year-old as I've been on. He's got gears, and he goes through them quick."

"We were hoping to see the horse go in 1:01 and change and just gallop out easy," trainer Tom Albertrani said, "and he just picked it up really nice the last eighth of a mile."

Bernardini, a son of Grade 1 winners A.P. Indy and Cara Rafaela, is 2 for 3 and is coming off a solid 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Withers, in which jockey Javier Castellano dropped the whip outside the eighth pole. Still, Bernardini ran one mile in 1:35.07 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104.

"The field wasn't that deep in the Withers, but it's the way he ran that was very impressive," Albertrani said. "He certainly belongs in this field."

Albertrani, who trains Bernardini for Darley Stable, plans to work Bernardini next Tuesday before shipping him to Baltimore on Friday.

Meanwhile, Gotham winner Like Now galloped 1 1/4 miles Wednesday morning at Belmont. With rain in the forecast beginning late Thursday and scheduled to last through the weekend, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin planned to move up Like Now's workout from Saturday to Thursday.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Marcus Hersh

Preakness contenders

Horses pointing for the 131st Preakness at Pimlico on May 20. The field will be limited to 14.

HORSETRAINERJOCKEYLAST RACE
BarbaroM. MatzE. Prado1st, Ky. Derby
BernardiniT. AlbertraniJ. Castellano1st, Withers
Brother DerekD. HendricksA. Solis4th-dh, Ky. Derby
Hemingway's KeyN. ZitoJ. Rose8th, Lexington
Like NowK. McLaughlinundecided2nd, Lexington
SweetnorthernsaintM. TrombettaK. Desormeaux7th, Ky. Derby
Possible entrants
Bob and JohnB. BaffertG. Gomez17th, Ky. Derby
Lawyer RonB. HolthusJ. McKee12th, Ky. Derby
Lewis MichaelW. CatalanoM. Guidry4th, Ill. Derby
Point DeterminedB. BaffertR. Bejarano9th, Ky. Derby