05/01/2006 11:00PM

Lawyer Ron may be sold before Derby

Negotiations for the sale of Lawyer Ron are close to being concluded.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - 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.

The deal had not been finalized as of late Tuesday afternoon, said Bamberger, who 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 on Saturday in the Hines family's blue-and-white silks. For races thereafter, the colt would carry the silks of his new owner.

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

Lawyer Ron is named after Bamberger, a longtime attorney for Hines. 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 seven 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.