09/22/2006 11:00PM

Strong Contender finishes fast in Super Derby

Reed Palmer Photography
Strong Contender wins the Super Derby on Saturday at Louisiana Downs.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Strong Contender might have given his connections a reason to consider a start in the Breeders' Cup Classic after he overtook 4-5 favorite Lawyer Ron and went on to a one-length win in the Grade 2, $500,000 at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.

It was another 6 1/2 lengths back in third to Louisborg.

The Super Derby is the richest race of the meet and was one of five stakes on a card worth more than $1 million. Robby Albarado rode Strong Contender, and also captured three other stakes: the $200,000 Louisiana Downs Breeders' Cup aboard Don'tbotherknocking, the $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial on Kingship, and the $100,000 Juvenile with Birdbirdistheword.

Strong Contender ($7.60) broke last in the field of seven 3-year-olds, and moved into contention in the first turn. He tracked the pace set by Lawyer Ron, who overtook early leader His Eyes in the first turn. Strong Contender settled in fourth, as Lawyer Ron ran the opening half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile race in 46.77 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.80.

"My idea was to just follow [Lawyer Ron] around there, because he's going to make room," said Albarado. "He's the best horse, the one to beat, so I just guided myself right behind him and when I thought I needed to call on [Strong Contender] I did."

Strong Contender began his bid on the final turn, entered the stretch three wide, came to Lawyer Ron inside the final furlong and went on, covering the distance over a track rated fast in 1:48.60. The time was the fastest of four runnings of the Super Derby at the mile and an eighth distance, all since 2002.

"He's a horse to reckon with late in the year," Albarado said of Strong Contender, who gave the Louisiana native his first win in the Super Derby.

John Oxley owns Strong Contender and John Ward Jr. trains the horse, and both planned to be at Louisiana Downs on Saturday, but a storm system kept them from flying in from Kentucky. Ward said next-race plans are to be determined for Strong Contender.

"We've been pointing for this race," he said. "We'll take a look at our options for where to go next."

Strong Contender earned $275,000 for the win, which was his fourth win in seven career starts, boosting his bankroll to $596,000. Earlier this year, Strong Contender won the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont Park in July.

The remaining order of finish was Costa Rising in fourth, followed by Majestic Stream, His Eyes and Point Determined, the 5-2 favorite who never got into the race Saturday.

* Louisiana Downs handled $7,306,487 on its 13-race card, eclipsing the mark of $6.7 million set on Super Derby day in 2003.