08/23/2006 11:00PM

Lawyer Ron beatable in St. Louis Derby

Will Kenser / Coady Photography
Arkansas Derby winner Lawyer Ron has a few knocks on him going into the St. Louis Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Like many, I will be watching with great interest Saturday's Travers Stakes at Saratoga, which features Preakness winner Bernardini and Haskell winner Bluegrass Cat. Unfortunately, with only seven horses entered and prices likely to be short, it looks like a better race to watch than bet.

A deeper wagering race Saturday will be run at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Ill, as the track hosts the $250,000 St. Louis Derby, the richest race in its 81-year history.

Although it does not offer the prestige, purse, or grade of the Travers, it does have strength in numbers. A field of 12 was entered, and with Arkansas Derby winner Lawyer Ron unraced since finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby on May 6, the race could be ripe for a decent-priced winner.

That is, if the field remains intact. Kid Lemonade and Lewis Michael - the two horses I consider to have the best chances of upsetting Lawyer Ron - have been cross-entered in other races this weekend. In addition to being entered in the St. Louis Derby, Kid Lemonade was entered in a six-horse allowance race at Delaware Park Sunday, and Lewis Michael was entered in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes on the Travers undercard.

Lewis Michael is likely to run in the St. Louis Derby, trainer Wayne Catalano said Thursday afternoon. If so, I plan to back him to defeat Lawyer Ron.

For starters, Lawyer Ron has not raced for nearly four months, a layoff that potentially puts him at a fitness disadvantage. Second, he is coming off surgery to remove a bone chip from his right hind ankle.

Then, throw in that his Derby performance was the worst dirt race of his career, and it seems he is unlikely to run his best race on Saturday. And if he doesn't, the race presents the opportunity for nice payoff.

I'm not alone in that assessment. The connections of those with horses entered against Lawyer Ron are no doubt thinking the same thing - except they're hoping to cash on the $250,000 purse, not at the betting windows.

"We didn't scare anybody off," said Bob Holthus, trainer of Lawyer Ron, in a conference call earlier this week.

At 2-1 on the morning line, Lawyer Ron looks like an underlay in light of the layoff and recent surgery.

Lewis Michael, the likely second favorite in the wagering behind Lawyer Ron, is the most probable winner of the race in my eyes. He has performed at a high level on dirt this year, running fourth to Sweetnorthernsaint in a swiftly run Illinois Derby, running second to Sunriver in the Peter Pan, and winning an allowance at Arlington Park July 28.

His connections - Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese - are high-percentage players in Chicago.

If Kid Lemonade runs, he has things to offer as a value play. At 8-1 on the morning line, he has the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure in the field, a 105. A late-developing colt, he seems to be peaking.

My concern is that he drew the 10-hole. With many of the runners in here sharing his pace-pressing style, he could get hung wide.

Both Lewis Michael and Kid Lemonade benefit from the allowance conditions of the 1 1/16-mile St. Louis Derby. Carrying 117 pounds, both of them draw a seven-pound weight break from Lawyer Ron.

That is far down on my list of reasons why I like these two. More than anything, they seem capable of running a Beyer Figure at or around 100 - the kind of figure that will likely be needed to win.

I also respect Cielo Gold and More Than Regal, who ran second and third in the West Virginia Derby behind the up-and-coming Bright One. Their late-running style should play well in a field with an abundance of pace.

A $24 pick three play

I also plan to play a pick three that ends on the St. Louis Derby, race 8. Beginning in the Circle C Classic, the sixth race and a stakes race for Illinois-breds, I will go two deep, using Barely Union Scale (No. 3) and Stormy o' Bryan (7). In race 7, a starter allowance, I will play Image of Approval (3), Mount Tora Bora (6), and Lift Up (7). Then I'll finish in the St. Louis Derby by playing Lewis Michael (6) and Kid Lemonade (10).

My $2 pick three ticket will be: 3,7 with 3,6,7 with 6, 10. The cost is $24.

If Kid Lemonade is scratched, Lewis Michael would become a single and the cost of the ticket would drop to $12.