01/14/2006 1:00AM

Lawyer Ron sparkles in Risen Star

Lou Hodges Jr.
Lawyer Ron romps to victory by 8 1/4 lengths in the Risen Star, boosting his record on dirt tracks to 4 for 4.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Since Lawyer Ron found the right racing surface he has become unstoppable, and after crushing his rivals Saturday in the $268,000 , he heads into the Oaklawn Park meet as one of the leading contenders for the Arkansas Derby.

Lawyer Ron's rise to prominence has been both meteoric and obscure. Heavily raced as a 2-year-old, he once ran for a $50,000 claiming tag, and needed six tries to win a maiden race. Two recent blowout wins looked impressive on the surface, but one came in an off-the-turf allowance race here at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, the other in a stakes race at tiny Evangeline Downs.

But make no mistake; Lawyer Ron is for real.

He stalked a solid pace Saturday in the Grade 3 Risen Star, took command coming off the far turn, and blew away the competition in the stretch, drawing out to an 8 1/4-length victory. The race was impressive both visually and against the clock: Lawyer Ron's time of 1:43.31 was the fastest 1 1/16-mile clocking of the meet, and was almost three seconds faster than Baghdaria's winning time Saturday in the Silverbulletday Stakes.

Bob Holthus, who trains Lawyer Ron for owner-breeder James Hines, said Lawyer Ron had impressed his handlers even before his debut last season. But Lawyer Ron lost his first three starts on turf, and his next two on Turfway Park's Polytrack. On dirt tracks, Lawyer Ron has won all four of his starts, winning at distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

"Every time I've called on him, he's given me that extra kick at the end," said jockey John McKee.

Mark of Success, the early pacesetter, held second behind Lawyer Ron, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Hyte Regency. Favored Saint Augustus finished fifth, beating only the Steve Asmussen-trained Midway Man and Red Bordeaux, who broke down at the three-eighths pole with a fractured foreleg, and was euthanized.

Lawyer Ron paid $7.40, and capped a $2,331 all-stakes pick four. He will return to Holthus's Oaklawn Park base and point for the Southwest Stakes, Holthus said.