05/02/2006 12:00AM

Lawyer Ron close to being sold


Ron Bamberger, executor of the estate for the breeder and owner James T. Hines Jr., said Tuesday that serious negotiations were ongoing for the sale of Lawyer Ron, one of the favorites for the 132nd Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Bamberger said that the deal had not been finalized as of late Tuesday afternoon and declined to identify the potential buyer.

Other sources, including one prominent member of the bloodstock industry, said that the negotiations were close to being concluded. These sources, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, said that the new owner would buy a majority interest before the Derby but that Lawyer Ron would race in the Hines family's blue-and-white silks on Saturday at Churchill Downs. For races thereafter, the colt would carry the silks of the new owner.

Derby entries close about 11 o'clock on Wednesday, according to Doug Bredar, the Churchill Downs racing secretary. Post positions will be drawn Wednesday evening in downtown Louisville.

Lawyer Ron is named for Bamberger, who is a longtime attorney for Hines and the executor for the Hines estate. Hines, an Owensboro, Ky., businessman, drowned in a swimming pool accident at his farm in Utica, Ky., on Feb. 21. He was 69. Hines owned a tool-and-die company, a stamping company, and electronics and charter jet businesses.

There has been speculation about the possibility of a sale of Lawyer Ron as the Hines estate goes through probate, a development first reported by The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. Members and friends of the Hines family said the farm and racing stable is being downsized and may eventually be liquidated.

Lawyer Ron, a Langfuhr colt trained by Bob Holthus, enters the Derby off six straight wins, most recently a 2 3/4-length victory in the April 15 Arkansas Derby. He has won 7 of 14 races for career earnings of $1,220,008. All 7 wins have come on dirt; he is 0-for-7 on turf and the artificial surface Polytrack.

John McKee, the colt's regular rider, will be aboard again Saturday.

It is unusual for a horse to change hands so close to the Derby although four years ago The Thoroughbred Corp. purchased the eventual Derby winner, War Emblem, from Russell Reineman for a reported $1 million about two weeks before the race.

Last week, a minority interest in Sharp Humor, another Kentucky Derby prospect, was sold to WinStar Farm. Primary ownership of Sharp Humor, the Florida Derby runner-up, remains with Purdedel Stable.