03/18/2006 1:00AM

'Lawyer' remains red-hot in Rebel

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Lawyer Ron wins his fifth straight race in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Lawyer Ron powered to an outstanding, off-the-pace effort Saturday to win his fifth straight race in the Grade 3, $300,000 at Oaklawn Park and continue his trek toward the Kentucky Derby.

Lawyer Ron won by three lengths, and with the victory remained unbeaten on dirt. Red Raymond finished second, giving trainer Bob Holthus a sweep of the first two spots in the Rebel and a strong hand heading into the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 15.

Lawyer Ron ($5.60) broke a step slow and raced in fifth early, about five lengths off the pace as Travelin Leroy led the field through an opening quarter in 23.61 seconds and a half-mile in 47.79. Lawyer Ron was angled to the outside of horses down the backside, moved closer to the leaders past the half-mile pole and continued to advance on the final turn while racing four wide. The eventual winner came into the stretch four wide and pulled away in the drive, covering the mile and a sixteenth over a fast track in 1:44.09.

"I just followed instructions; he did the rest," said John McKee, who rode Lawyer Ron. "Bob told me to get off the rail, which I did as we came out of the first turn. He settled in real nice down the backside.

"I had three horses up ahead battling, and while it looked like we were losing some ground around the turn I think the best part of the track was three or four lanes off the rail, exactly where Bob had told me he wanted to see this horse. In the stretch, he really kicked it in and gave me a big move."

Lawyer Ron was favored over Private Vow, who raced close to the leaders, ran into some traffic on the final turn and finished seventh, seven lengths behind the winner. The race was Private Vow's first start since winning the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 26.

"It wasn't a bad race and one that will help him, it being his first out of the season," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Private Vow. "We were stalking early and it looked like we were ready to pounce. I liked our position. He needed the race and will improve."

Steppenwolfer rallied for third in the Rebel, a neck behind Red Raymond. The remaining order of finish was Well Said, Film Fortune, Nob Hill Deelite, Private Vow, Music School, Kip Deville and Travelin Leroy.

Lawyer Ron earned $180,000 for his win in the Rebel, which was his fourth straight victory in a two-turn stakes behind the $250,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park; the Grade 3 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs; and the $100,000 Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs.

Lawyer Ron has now won 6 of 13 starts and $620,008. He races for the Estate of James T. Hines Jr. Holthus has now won five runnings of the Rebel, his other victories with Greater Good in 2005; United Holme in 1977; Our Trade Winds in 1972; and Spike Nail in 1964.

Handle on the 11-race card Saturday was 7,707,625. Attendance ontrack was 32,983.