05/08/2006 11:00PM

Lawyer Ron injured, likely out

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The 131st at Pimlico appeared to have lost one of the stronger challengers to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro when trainer Bob Holthus revealed Tuesday that Lawyer Ron likely will pass the race because of minor inflammation in a hind ankle.

Lawyer Ron, owned by the estate of James Hines Jr. and Our Legal Team LLC, was never a factor when finishing 12th as the fourth wagering choice in a field of 20 in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday at Churchill Downs.

"We're probably going to have to give him a little time off," said Holthus. "He's run awfully hard for us for 10 months now. I'll be able to say for sure [Wednesday] when I take a good look at him at Churchill. It's nothing serious, but we're probably going to have to pass up the Preakness."

Holthus, who was in Lexington, Ky., to look at 2-year-olds and yearlings, said X-rays were taken Monday on Lawyer Ron "as a matter of routine" when the ankle problem was discovered.

"It's really nothing, and if he was a normal horse, you wouldn't think anything of it," he said.

Holthus said veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage was being consulted about the ankle and that a final decision on the Preakness probably would be announced Wednesday.

Holthus said that if, in fact, Lawyer Ron has to have time off, the colt will not run in the June 10 Belmont Stakes.

"If that's what we have to do, he'll get 60 to 90 days off and we'll bring him back later this summer," he said.

A majority interest in Lawyer Ron, a Langfuhr colt, was sold just two days prior to the Derby to Our Legal Team LLC, a new entity comprising members of the Hines estate and of the Stonewall Stallions of Richard and Audrey Haisfield. The sale placed the overall value of Lawyer Ron at about $6 million, according to several industry insiders.

Lawyer Ron entered the Derby with 14 races, the most of any starter, and brought to Churchill a six-race win streak, capped by a 2 3/4-length romp in the April 15 Arkansas Derby. Although the colt had gone 0 for 7 in races on turf or Polytrack, he had been unbeaten in seven starts on dirt until the Derby. John McKee has ridden the colt in all but one race.

Some leaving, some staying

At Churchill Downs, nearly half the 20-horse field from the Kentucky Derby is sticking around, at least temporarily, while the others have left or are leaving.

Among those staying put are Lawyer Ron; Brother Derek, who is scheduled to leave for Baltimore next Wednesday on an early-morning flight; the Bob Baffert-trained trio of Point Determined, Sinister Minister, and Bob and John; the Steve Asmussen-trained pair of Private Vow and Storm Treasure; and Sharp Humor, trained by Dale Romans.

Three more Derby starters were scheduled to depart Louisville on Tuesday or Wednesday: Steppenwolfer (headed to New York), Cause to Believe (northern California), and Seaside Reatreat (Woodbine).

Baffert said Tuesday from California that Point Determined and Bob and John, who finished ninth and 17th, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby, are both possible to run in the Preakness. Baffert said he plans to return to Churchill Downs over the weekend and breeze both horses there on Monday before making a decision.

"I could run two or one or none," said Baffert, who has won the Preakness four times since 1997. "I want to see how things shake out and I'm going to see the horses over the weekend and I'll see how they look. All I know for sure is that Sinister Minister won't run."

Baffert said Sinister Minister, who finished 16th in the Derby, would be freshened up and pointed to the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park on Aug. 6.

Asmussen said his Derby duo probably would race next at Churchill on the same day, June 17, but not in the same race, with Private Vow going in the Northern Dancer and Storm Treasure in the Jefferson Cup.

Dale Romans said he could find nothing wrong with Sharp Humor, who finished 19th. "He just ran a clunker," Romans said.

Romans said Sharp Humor could go next in the Woody Stephens, formerly named the Riva Ridge, on the June 10 Belmont Stakes undercard.

- additional reporting by David Grening

Preakness contenders

Horses pointing for the 131st Preakness at Pimlico on May 20. The field will be limited to 14.

HORSETRAINERJOCKEYLAST RACE
BarbaroM. MatzE. Prado1st, Ky. Derby
BernardiniT. AlbertraniJ. Castellano1st, Withers
Brother DerekD. HendricksA. Solis4th-dh, Ky. Derby
Like NowK. McLaughlinundecided2nd, Lexington
Simon PureD. Lukasundecided4th, Ark. Derby
SweetnorthernsaintM. TrombettaK. Desormeaux7th, Ky. Derby
Possible entrants
Bob and JohnB. BaffertG. Gomez17th, Ky. Derby
High FinanceR. Violetteundecided1st, Bel. Allow.
Point DeterminedB. BaffertR. Bejerano9th, Ky. Derby