Arkansas Derby Recap

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2006 Arkansas Derby Recap: Lawyer Ron Dominates ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/horse-header.htm”); ?>

Lawyer Ron Overcomes Early Trouble to Dominate in Arkansas Derby

by Horse Handicapper Kenneth Strong

April 15, 2006 – Lawyer Ron overcame a bumpy start and early trouble before surging to the lead and blasting home to win the 70th running of the Arkansas Derby-G2 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday by 2 ¾ lengths over a rallying Steppenwolfer.

Sent off at 50 cents on the dollar, Lawyer Ron broke inwards and bumped a rival before finding early trouble inside. In tight and full of run into the first turn despite a quickly run first quarter of 23.00, Lawyer Ron finally got through along the rail (or was let through by his outside rival) after passing the midpoint in the turn and surged to an early lead he would never relinquish.

Opening a one length early on the backstretch, Lawyer Ron increased his margin to 1 ½ lengths while under mild restraint and set fractions of 46.49, 1:10.98 and 1:37.76 to the stretch before being asked for more when it counted. Responding to right handed urging in his characteristic fashion after passing the eighth pole, Lawyer Ron accelerated to shake off a mild bid from the much-improved Private Vow and easily held off the rallying Steppenwolfer. The final time for the mile and an eighth over a fast but deep track was 1:51.38.

The winner paid $3, $2.60, $2.20 across the board for his ever-increasing throng of loyal backers, and added further verification to his position as the main challenger to likely Kentucky Derby favorite Brother Derek. The fact that Lawyer Ron proved he could overcome trouble in the Arkansas Derby could be just the edge he needs when the two meet for the first time in what should be a huge field for the 132nd Kentucky Derby on May 6.


It was the sixth win in a row for the chestnut colt by Langfuhr-Donation by Lord Avie, who remained undefeated on true dirt tracks, having previously lost only on turf and polytrack surfaces. Trained by Robert Holthus for the estate of James T. Hines Jr. and ridden by regular rider John McKee, Lawyer Ron was increasing his lifetime earnings to $1,220,008 from a record of 7-1-3 in 14 starts including five straight stakes.

With 2006 Kentucky Derby shaping up as a race with a hot pace, a rallier like Steppenwolfer could plod home late for a piece of the purse, but it was the much improved performance of Private Vow that impressed many. Making his second start off a layoff for trainer Steve Asmussen, Private Vow had a good trip inside and made a run at the winner early in the stretch before understandably tiring to finish third, 1 ½ lengths behind Steppenwolfer.

Private Vow is now finally ready to run a mile and an eighth, and he has proved he can come from just off what should be a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby, but can he get the mile and a quarter with only two races under his belt? His odds in the Derby will be equal to the risk of knowing the answer to that question.

Three horses in the last 20 years have come out of the Arkansas Derby to win the Kentucky Derby – Lil E. Tee (1992), Grindstone (1996) and Smarty Jones (2004). But Lawyer Ron was sharper for this race than any Kentucky Derby contender we’ve seen this year, and he will need to calm down just a bit before the big race to make sure he doesn’t run himself into trouble early – as he did here. Early trouble in the Kentucky Derby will not be as easy to recover from.

A few long, slow, relaxing works might do the trick.

Watch closely.

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