04/11/2006 11:00PM

Steppenwolfer gets what he craves

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Steppenwolfer is bred to relish nine furlongs.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The Arkansas Derby has been a long time coming for Dan Peitz. The trainer of Steppenwolfer, Peitz said more ground is what the long-striding colt is bred to love, and Steppenwolfer will get to run farther than he ever has before on Saturday in the Grade 2, $1 million at Oaklawn Park.

"For me, I've been waiting two months to get to this race," said Peitz. "That's what I said two months ago, I can't get to a mile and an eighth fast enough."

Steppenwolfer, a son of Aptitude, has run twice at the meet. In his most recent start, he was third to Lawyer Ron in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 18. One race prior, he ran a bang-up second to Lawyer Ron in the $250,000 Southwest at a mile Feb. 25.

Steppenwolfer put in his final work for the Arkansas Derby last Saturday, and for the move Peitz reverted to a similar pattern he used to bring the colt up to the Southwest. He worked Steppenwolfer in company, and he went five furlongs in 1:00.76, the second fastest time at the distance behind the 59 seconds drilled by Lawyer Ron.

"I thought his one breeze prior to the Southwest when I gave him a little company, he might have been just a little sharper," said Peitz. "It was good. We just gave him a target to run at and kept his mind on business."

Steppenwolfer broke off several lengths behind his workmate, overtook him in the stretch and went on, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.42.

On the graded earnings front, the Arkansas Derby is a key race for Steppenwolfer. He has graded earnings of $30,000, ranking 30th among the group of prospective starters for the Kentucky Derby. The winner's share of the Arkansas Derby is $600,000.

"If we plan on going to the next race, we're probably going to have to be first or second," said Peitz, who trains Steppenwolfer for Robert and Lawana Low. "Third puts us on shaky ground, I think. I told Mr. Low, $630,000 I feel confident will get us in. He said, 'That's what I'm talking about.' "

The other Holthus horse

Lawyer Ron will start as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby, but Red Raymond - like Lawyer Ron trained by Bob Holthus - also merits consideration in the race. The runner-up to Lawyer Ron in the Rebel, Red Raymond is bred to appreciate the additional ground he will get to work with in the Arkansas Derby.

"He's really got a mile and a quarter pedigree," said Holthus.

Red Raymond races for Thomas W. Franks, whose father once had a large stable. Red Raymond is the lone horse Franks has in training after losing a filly last year to the claim box at Oaklawn.

"Mr. Franks said 'If you find a 2-year-old, why, I wouldn't mind buying one,' so we bought him and he turned out well," Holthus said of Red Raymond.

Holthus said Red Raymond, a son of Deputy Commander, was purchased privately from trainer Jinks Fires, who bred the colt. Last August, he won the Ellis Park Juvenile for Franks and Holthus. Red Raymond was also fourth in the Grade 3 Iroquois and finished third in the $250,000 Southwest.

In his final prep for the Arkansas Derby, Red Raymond worked five furlongs in a strong 1:00.80 and had to come around horses at the top of the stretch.

"He was able to get what he needed," said Holthus. "I thought he went real good and he galloped out good."

Red Raymond will likely have to finish first, second, or third in the Arkansas Derby to secure a spot in the gate in the Kentucky Derby. He has graded earnings of $93,120, which is 24th on the list of prospective starters for the big race. Luis Quinonez has the mount on Red Raymond.