02/21/2006 12:00AM

Lawyer Ron's owner found dead

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James T. Hines Jr., the breeder and owner of top Kentucky Derby prospect Lawyer Ron, was found dead Tuesday morning in an indoor swimming pool at his home in Daviess County in western Kentucky, according to county officials. Hines was 69.

"At this point, it appears to be an accidental drowning," said Bob Howe, the coroner for Daviess County.

Howe said an autopsy was to be performed Wednesday.

Lawyer Ron is the favorite for the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. The race was scheduled to be run on Monday, but a winter storm in the region caused its postponement. Lawyer Ron is still scheduled to start in the race, his trainer, Bob Holthus, confirmed on Tuesday.

Hines was a prominent businessman in Daviess County, according to Howe. He owned a tool and die factory in Owensboro, Ky., and raised Lawyer Ron on his nearby farm. Other top horses raced by Hines included Ruby Surprise, a Grade 2 winner of $752,697, and Dorothy Ann, a stakes winner of $298,006.

Hines said in an interview with Daily Racing Form last week that Lawyer Ron, who has earned close to $300,000, was the richest horse he had bred.

"I've got great hopes for him," said Hines. Hines named Lawyer Ron for his attorney, Ron Bamberger.