04/14/2006 11:00PM

Lawyer Ron extends streak

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Lawyer Ron wins the Arkansas Derby, his sixth straight race, on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Lawyer Ron will go into the Kentucky Derby undefeated on dirt after he won his sixth straight race Saturday in the Grade 2, $1 million , proving two and three-quarter lengths best in front of a record crowd of 72,484 at Oaklawn Park.

Steppenwolfer rallied for second in the 1 1/8-mile race, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Private Vow.

Lawyer Ron broke inward at the start, and raced in fourth around the first turn as High Cotton jumped out to the lead and ran the opening quarter in 23 seconds. Lawyer Ron took quick command of the race from along the inside on the backstretch, and proceeded to lead by about a length through a half-mile in 46.49 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.98, with Private Vow tracking in second. Lawyer Ron remained in control of the Arkansas Derby in the stretch, comfortably holding the late-running Steppenwolfer at bay to complete the distance in 1:51.38 over a fast track.

After Private Vow, it was another seven and a quarter lengths back in fourth to Simon Pure. The remaining order of finish was Nob Hill Deelite, Jealous Profit, Film Fortune, Sayhellotolarry, High Cotton, Red Raymond, Superfly, New Joysey Jeff, and With a City.

"I didn't want to be challenging the other speed, but he was just real aggressive with me around the first turn," said John McKee, who rode Lawyer Ron. "He is just full of himself right now. On the backside, he just took a hold of the race. He never stopped running. In the stretch, I was a little concerned and hit him a couple of times, and he just took off and I was like 'Wow!'

"It was just a monster performance. He went 1:10 and change and still drew off."

Bob Holthus trains Lawyer Ron for the Estate of James T. Hines Jr. He said the horse will fly to Churchill Downs on Monday to begin preparations for the Kentucky Derby.

"I think he will be no worse than second choice," Holthus said. "Of course, I might have a biased opinion."

Lawyer Ron has now won all seven of his dirt starts. He won his maiden on the main track at Keeneland in October, and after picking up checks in two turf starts, he returned to dirt and has reeled off six straight wins. His streak began on Dec. 9, when he won an optional claiming race at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs. From there, Lawyer Ron captured the Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs on Dec. 31, the Grade 3 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs Jan. 14, the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 25, and the Grade 3 Rebel Stakes, also at Oaklawn, on March 18.

Lawyer Ron went over the $1million mark in earnings with his victory in the Arkansas Derby. A son of Langfuhr, he is 7 for 14 with earnings of $1,220,008.

It was the second Arkansas Derby win for Holthus, who also won the race in 1988 with Proper Reality.

Steppenwolfer overcame traffic on the final turn to close for second, and the $200,000 in earnings he picked up should secure him a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. He needed to finish second to be in a desirable position to get into the race, having just $30,000 in graded earnings heading into the Arkansas Derby.

"I got stopped around the five-sixteenths and had to wait a little, but what a move he gave me in the stretch," said Robby Albarado, who rode Steppenwolfer for trainer Dan Peitz.

* Saturday's attendance surpassed Oaklawn's all-time record of 71,203, on Arkansas Derby Day in 1986. Handle on the 12-race card Saturday was $12,635,426.