09/20/2006 11:00PM

Super Derby a Classic confrontation

Lawyer Ron will try to use the Super Derby as a BC Classic prep.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs will serve as a Breeders' Cup Classic tryout for Kentucky Derby alums Lawyer Ron and Point Determined, and Grade 2 Dwyer winner Strong Contender. Because the three favorites bring depth to the 1 1/8-mile race, the Super Derby is a good litmus test as to whether they should advance to Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

"That's why we're coming," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Point Determined. "We're going to find out where we fit."

"If everything went well and he ran a big race, I would say that I would have to look at the Classic," said John Ward Jr., who trains Strong Contender.

"We won't make any kind of decision until after the Super Derby," trainer Bob Holthus said of a possible Classic start for Lawyer Ron. "Naturally, he'd have to come off a good race going into the Breeders' Cup. It's going to be an awful tough race this year."

Lawyer Ron has been awful tough himself this year. A winner of five stakes in six starts, he returned from a near four-month layoff last out to win the $250,000 St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park. He is the one to beat in the field of eight, which also includes Costa Rising, a winner of his last six starts, who is cross-entered in the $75,000 Wilhite on the undercard, and Louisborg, the winner of the $100,000 Prelude, the local Super Derby prep.

The Super Derby is the richest race of the meet and one of five stakes on a card that is worth more than $1 million. The four supporting stakes are on turf. There is a $100,000 guaranteed all-stakes pick four on races 8-11, with the Super Derby going as race 10.

Lawyer Ron is 2 for 2 at Louisiana Downs, where he launched a six-race win streak in December that carried him through the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby in April. He went on to run 12th in the Kentucky Derby, after which he was found to have a bone chip in his right hind ankle. It was removed, and he made his comeback on Aug. 25, closing from farther back than ever before in the St. Louis Derby.

"I thought it was a very good race," said Holthus.

Lawyer Ron has turned in two big works since, and will break from post 2 under John McKee. He figures to track front-runners His Eyes, Costa Rising, and Point Determined.

"With the shorter field, we'll probably lay a little closer than we did last time," said Holthus.

Point Determined, who was ninth in the Kentucky Derby off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, is moving back to dirt after making his first start on turf. He was ninth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3 in a race Baffert labeled a toss-out. Point Determined's last two starts on dirt have yielded a win in the Grade 3 Affirmed and a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Swaps, both at Hollywood Park. Victor Espinoza was aboard for those races, and is reuniting with Point Determined, who will break from post 6.

"He's up close, probably," said Baffert. "He's got to be very aggressively ridden, and Victor fits him well."

Strong Contender, like Lawyer Ron, figures to be coming for Point Determined in the later stages. He was third in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth in his last start Aug. 6, and the race was a demanding one. With a number of horses looking for position on the same part of the racetrack, the field was "playing roller derby," said Ward.

"It was a pretty physical race on us because horses were leaning on us," he said.

Since the race, Strong Contender has worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.20 at Belmont Park. He will break from the rail under Robby Albarado.

"He's not a horse you have to cover up and take back," said Ward. "He's a pretty kind kind of horse."

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