07/12/2009 11:00PM

Namesake recalls Lawyer Ron


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Champion Lawyer Ron's untimely death after colic last week marked a sad ending for attorney Ron Bamberger. Bamberger, 66, had never intended to get into the Thoroughbred racing game, but he found himself swept up in it in 2005 after his close friend James T. Hines Jr. called to tell him he'd named a 2-year-old Langfuhr colt after him.

"Jim called me after he'd named him and told me about it, and I just kind of forgot about it," said Bamberger, who lives in western Kentucky. "Lawyer Ron had a hard time as a 2-year-old. It took him a while to break his maiden, and I didn't really follow him.

But when 2006 dawned, Lawyer Ron was on a six-race win streak that would make him a Kentucky Derby favorite. Hines died in late February of that year, leaving Bamberger as his estate's executor as Lawyer Ron campaigned for the Derby.

"I really felt odd," Bamberger said. "Jim was such a close friend, and it was always his dream to have a horse in the Derby. Then for him to die and me to be sitting there in his seat, it was an unusual feeling."

Lawyer Ron finished 12th in the Derby but became champion older male the following year.

"That year, things got a little more personal, because I undertook control of him myself and decided to race him in the 2007 season," Bamberger said. "I take a lot of pride in his success that year, winning the Whitney at Saratoga and setting a new track record, then following up with another Grade 1 win in the Woodward.

Bamberger kept Lawyer Ron in training in 2007 over the objections of Stonewall Farm, which had bought into the horse in 2006.

"I just felt he hadn't had an opportunity to fully show what he was made of," Bamberger said. "Unfortunately, he had sustained an injury either just before or during the Derby and had two of his legs operated on within 10 days after the Derby. That really set him back that year. We ran him a couple more times, but he didn't win anything that year after the Derby. He just needed to step back and take time off. He had another little problem, too: he was always a little rank during that year."

Bamberger said Lawyer Ron covered about 85 mares this season before developing a rupture in his peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. The horse underwent surgery to repair the tear, which did not seem life threatening.

"But it was in a place where they weren't able to sew it up completely," Bamberger said. "It seemed like it was healing, but he kept having minor relapses and then all of a sudden he did real bad. It was what they were afraid of - it didn't heal properly and turned into colic."

Lawyer Ron was euthanized July 10 at age 6.

Bamberger said his wife, Jeana, 44, became especially fond of Lawyer Ron. Now she's encouraging him to buy a mare.

"That would be our first horse," Bamberger said, "because Lawyer Ron wasn't mine. You have to be more careful dealing with other people's money. One of the nice things is we were in a great position to learn the business from people at the top.

"She'll probably talk me into it one of these days."

Japan sale off to a strong start

The Japan Racing Horse Association yearling and foal sale began Monday on Hokkaido with three seven-figure horses and strong sales returns at the opening yearling session. The session-topper was a Rock of Gibraltar half-brother to Japan's 2007 Horse of the Year Admire Moon that brought a final bid of about $1,526,315 from Big Red Farm. Northern Farm consigned the colt, who is out of Sunday Silence's unraced daughter My Katies.

The session grossed about $28,414,736 for 122 yearlings. Compared year to year in the local auction currency of yen, the gross for 122 horses rose 15 percent from the total for 105 horses last season. Average price dipped 1 percent to about $232,907, and median price remained the same at 16 million yen, or about $168,421.

The three-day auction at Hokkaido's Northern Horse Park was to continue through Wednesday, with foals selling Tuesday and Wednesday.

Black Tie Affair pensioned

Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year, was pensioned earlier this year due to arthritis, according to Randy Funkhouser of O'Sullivan Farms in Charles Town, W.Va. Funkhouser said Black Tie Affair would head for the Old Friends retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky., within the next couple of weeks.

Black Tie Affair stood at O'Sullivan for an advertised fee of $5,000 this season, but Funkhouser said the farm attempted to breed him to only two mares, and he was unable to.

"He just had severe arthritis in his left hind leg and was no longer able to mount mares properly," Funkhouser said.

Black Tie Affair, now 23, covered 36 mares in 2008.

The Miswaki horse was voted champion older horse and Horse of the Year in 1991 after winning the Breeders' Cup Classic, Philip H. Iselin Handicap, and five other graded stakes. The popular gray runner won a total of 13 stakes and earned $3,370,694.

A son of the Al Hattab mare Hat Tab Girl, he went on to sire Grade 1 winners Evening Attire and Formal Gold; Brazilian champion filly My Tie; and multiple graded winner License Fee.