Updated on 09/18/2011 12:25AM

Lawyer Ron seeks 4th straight win

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Building a case for Lawyer Ron in Monday's $250,000 * at Oaklawn Park takes little effort. He's fast. He's fit. He's fresh. And he's the one to beat when he takes on seven others in the Southwest, the first of two local preps for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Lawyer Ron established himself as one of the country's best 3-year-olds in his last start, storming to an 8 1/4-length win in the Grade 3, $250,000 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs on Jan. 14.

With the win, he remained unbeaten on dirt, and earned the second-highest Beyer Speed Figure by a 3-year-old around two turns this year, a 106.

"He ran a great race that day," said Bob Holthus, who trains Lawyer Ron. "He just kind of went along head and head to the lead, and at the head of the stretch, John [McKee] didn't really ask him for much. John crossed his reins on him, and he just drew off. It was a pretty impressive race."

Lawyer Ron will be shooting for his fourth straight victory on Monday, after winning his last three starts by a combined 27 1/2 lengths. Lawyer Ron has since trained like a fresh horse, flaunting his fitness in a series of strong works. He figures to be prominent early in the Southwest, which starts and ends at the sixteenth pole, as do all one-mile races at Oaklawn.

"He doesn't have to be in front, but he's got enough natural speed to lay fairly close and stay out of trouble," said Holthus.

Steppenwolfer won the mile allowance prep for the Southwest, closing from last. He showed a burst of acceleration on the final turn as he circled his rivals and went on to a 4 1/2-length win under Robby Albarado.

"A little turn of foot in the middle of the race you like to see, and most good horses have it," said Dan Peitz, who trains Steppenwolfer. "It was something we hadn't seen in any of his previous races, so that was definitely a step forward."

Peitz looks for Steppenwolfer to come from a closing position, presumably targeting Lawyer Ron.

"We hope we get some halfway decent pace in front of us, and then we'll see if we can reel him in," said Peitz.

Others in the Southwest field include Risen Star runner-up Mark of Success, Black Gold winner Kingsfield, and the stakes-placed Travelin Leroy.

* Due to , Sunday and Monday racing at Oaklawn Park was canceled. The Southwest Stakes will now be run on Saturday, February 25.