09/20/2006 12:00AM

Super Derby favorites draw one-two


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Keep your friends close, and your chief rivals closer. That summed up the draw for trainer John Ward, who will send out Strong Contender against favorite Lawyer Ron in the Grade 2, $500,000 race at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.

Posts for the 1 1/8-mile race were drawn Wednesday, and Lawyer Ron got gate 2 in the field of eight, right outside of the rail-drawn Strong Contender. The two horses are Grade 2 winners, and will meet for the first time in the Super Derby.

Ward said his interest in the draw was more about where Lawyer Ron would be in relation to Strong Contender.

"They talk about taking him back off the pace, and that probably makes me happy we're on the rail," he said. "I probably feel better having the favorite next to me, than probably two or three from the outside."

Robby Albarado has the mount on Strong Contender, while John McKee will ride Lawyer Ron, who in his last start won the $250,000 St. Louis Derby. Strong Contender comes into the Super Derby off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell.

The main threat to those two is Point Determined, the winner of the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap in June, who will break from post 6 under Victor Espinoza. The complete field from the rail with riders is Strong Contender; Lawyer Ron; Follow the Storm, Kerwin Clark; Majestic Stream, Donnie Meche; His Eyes, Carlos Gonzalez; Point Determined; Louisborg, Lonnie Meche; and Costa Rising, Mario Reyes.

Follow the Storm, His Eyes, and Costa Rising are cross-entered in the $75,000 Donnie Wilhite Memorial for 3-year-olds on turf on the undercard. The race is one of four stakes supporting the Super Derby. With a 13-race card on tap, special first post for the program is 12 noon Central.

The Super Derby will be part of a $100,000-guaranteed pick four made up of stakes in races 8-11. The series begins with the $200,000 Marie P. Debartolo Oaks and runs through the Wilhite, the Super Derby, and the $200,000 Harrah's Louisiana Downs.

Forecasters are calling for a high of 91 degrees on Saturday, with a 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms.