04/05/2007 12:00AM

Lawyer Ron can pick up where he left off

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Lawyer Ron established himself as one of last year's top 3-year-olds with his win in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Saturday, he returns to the track, where he is undefeated, for the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Lawyer Ron is the 120-pound highweight in the 1 1/8-mile race, which drew a competitive group that includes Boboman, McCann's Mojave, and Jonesboro. The Oaklawn will share a card with the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom. The two races are the richest stakes for older horses in the Racing Festival of the South, during which at least one stakes a day is run here through the close of the meet April 14.

Lawyer Ron went 3 for 3 for former trainer Bob Holthus at Oaklawn last year, when he swept the track's stakes series for 3-year-olds. He made his 4-year-old debut on Feb. 11 and overcame trouble for a 3 1/4-length win in a one-mile optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park.

"We liked the way he ran first time back this year," said Todd Pletcher, who now trains Lawyer Ron. "We got him back off the pace a touch, and got him settled a little bit. I'm sure it will be harder to do going a mile and an eighth, but hopefully he'll settle a little bit for us."

Lawyer Ron drew well for the Oaklawn, getting post 5 in the field of seven. He could sit just off Jonesboro, who used front-running tactics to win the Grade 3 Essex Handicap here Feb. 10. Lawyer Ron will be ridden by Edgar Prado.

Pletcher, who got Lawyer Ron after a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Super Derby in September, likes the transition Lawyer Ron has made from 3 to 4.

"The horse physically looks fantastic," he said. "He's filled out. He's carrying good weight. He looks super."

Through the stretch, Lawyer Ron will have to hold off Boboman, a Grade 1 winner on turf who in his dirt debut last out ran third, beaten 2o1/4 lengths by Lava Man, in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

"He ran really well," said Richard Mandella, who trains Boboman. "He kind of got lost in the shuffle as they went into the last turn and lost ground, but then he came running really hard the last eighth of a mile."

Boboman fits a winning Oaklawn Handicap profile for Mandella, who won this race in 2002 with Kudos following that horse's third-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap. Kudos closed from well back for the win on the cutback from 1 1/4 miles, and Boboman should be bidding in the later stages Saturday under Alex Solis.

"He'll be sitting off of it a little bit, it just depends on how fast they go," said Mandella. "We're just hoping he can get there in time."

A new player in the division is Brother Bobby, who has won two allowances at the meet. He has speed and the rail, and in his final prep for this worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 seconds March 30. Brother Bobby will be ridden by Stewart Elliott.

"He does things easy, so he kind of puts himself in a good spot," said Grant Forster, who trains Brother Bobby. "If the pace is slow, he can be up on the pace. It's just basically up to Stewart."

The field is completed by Smokeyjonessutton and Papi Chullo.