03/20/2006 12:00AM

McKee shows his rapport with Lawyer Ron


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jockey John McKee put an impeccable ride on Kentucky Derby prospect Lawyer Ron on Saturday, when he guided the colt to their fifth straight win together in the Grade 3, $300,000 at Oaklawn Park.

"I thought he did a super job," said trainer Bob Holthus. "He's got a lot of confidence in the horse."

Lawyer Ron came from farther off the pace than he ever had to win the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. McKee made the right calls at every stage of the race and was backed up by a talented and fit horse in Lawyer Ron.

McKee did not rush Lawyer Ron when he broke a step slowly from the rail, saved ground on the first turn, kept him clear down the backside, and pushed the right buttons at the right time from there, steering Lawyer Ron to a three-length win Saturday.

"I knew the race was going to set up the way it did," said McKee. "In the back of my mind, I knew [Travelin Leroy] was going to go to the lead. Really, there were three or four horses that could go to the lead.

"I just kind of sat off of it," he said. "He didn't like the dirt going into the first turn, because he threw his head up into the air with me a little bit, but I didn't want to swing him out right there at that point, because I didn't want to lose that much ground. Once I got around the middle of the turn, I got him out of the dirt and he turned off for me. He rated real kindly.

"At the half-mile pole," McKee continued, "he comes into the bridle with me, and I was just kind of idling down because I knew I had a lot of horse to finish up with, and I was just kind of letting him take me. When I called on him at the quarter pole, he just really accelerated. He took off. Bob deserves a lot of credit for this horse."

After the slow start in the Rebel, McKee said, he was not worried about coming off the pace from farther back than usual with Lawyer Ron, who in his prior start was a wire-to-wire winner of the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.

"I know this horse will rate," he said. "I rode him at Louisiana Downs, and I was second all the way around the first turn and he was going nice and easy. He relaxes for you. He's a smart colt. He's a push-button ride. You ask him, and he'll give it to you."

McKee, 24, is a native of Ohio and the son of former jockey David McKee. He has won titles at Churchill Downs, Oaklawn, Turfway Park, and River Downs.

Van Berg maiden to Arkansas Derby?

Film Fortune, the maiden who rallied from last to finish a troubled fifth in the Rebel, could remain at Oaklawn for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby, said his trainer, Jack Van Berg.

Van Berg and owner Tom Baxter were discussing their options on the Oaklawn backstretch Sunday morning. Film Fortune flew in from California last week to start in the Rebel. He came into the race off a second-place finish to Simon Pure in a maiden special weight race at Santa Anita.

In the Rebel, Film Fortune finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Lawyer Ron.

"He ran a good race," Van Berg said of Film Fortune. "He got in trouble up around the [final] turn. He just didn't have anywhere to go, and in my mind, I think it could have cost him second money. He was just moving up the backside like he was galloping to those horses."

Film Fortune was beaten slightly more than two lengths for second.

If the decision to run Film Fortune back in the Arkansas Derby is made, he will train up to the race at Oaklawn, said Van Berg. Film Fortune has raced at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Arkansas Derby, finishing second in a maiden turf race at Santa Anita in February.

Two stakes options for La Reason

La Reason, the Grade 2 winner who won the $50,000 Pippin in February and was fourth to Round Pond in the Grade 3 Azeri Breeders' Cup earlier this month, has a couple of options for her next start, said her trainer, David Vance.

La Reason is being considered for the $100,000 Bayakoa at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn on April 9. The other option is the $100,000 Doubledogdare at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on April 19. Last year, La Reason was second in the Doubledogdare.