Apr 21, 2006
By: JOHN PIESEN
Before signing off last Saturday, recently-retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey told the ABC audience that he has been on the Lawyer Ron bandwagon for a month.
A whole month!
Let us remind you that this column has been on the Lawyer Ron bandwagon since December when Lawyer Ron was there for the taking at 75-1 in the Vegas Derby futures.
I raised the following question at the time:
Who will have a better year?
Lawyer Ron, or Doctor Ron in Desperate Housewives?
So far it"s pretty close. Doctor Run seems to be doing pretty well with Teri Hatcher. And Lawyer Ron goes into the Kentucky Derby as second choice by virtue of a six-race winning streak, including the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
The Arkansas Derby crowd of 72,424 last Saturday reportedly is the second largest crowd ever to witness a sporting event in the State of Arkansas, second to an Arkansas-Tennessee varsity football game in upstate Fayetteville. I believe the Hogs covered.
And Lawyer Ron was doing so good on Sunday morning that trainer Holthus took him outside in the Arkansas heat to pose for pictures.
This marks the third straight year that Oalawn has produced the best 3-year-old. And, if you don"t think Lawyer Ron is the best 3-year-old, then check out the Kentucky Derby on May 6th.
And. Like Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex before him, Lawyer Ron has the one quality that makes a truly great horse:
He"s fast.and he keeps going!
Lawyer Ron was so good last Saturday that jockey McKee, with 50 yards to go, was glancing over his right shoulder at the cheering throng in the stands, rather than looking down the road.
Of course, the so-called experts are not convinced.
Nine out of 10 media people have Brother Derek on top in their Derby ratings. Now, I have nothing against Brother Derek. He"s a good colt, and his trainer is all guts, paralyzed as he is from a motorcross accident, and confined to a wheelchair.
But I make the over-under 10 lengths the margin that Lawyer Ron beats Brother Derek in Louisville.
I have covered 15 Derbys (for the New York Post and Daily Racing Form), and I"d love nothing more than to make it sweet 16, but some things have to happen for me to get there. If not, my second call is The Meadowlands press box. Not quite mint julep country, but the buffet"s not bad.
Meantime, trainer Holthus, citing a California bias, concedes that Brother Derek will get more action at the windows than Lawyer Ron, but ol" Bob could care less. When he was in Vegas last December, he purchased a Derby Futures ticket on Lawyer Ron, and gave it to his adoring wife Bonnie.
"I told Bonnie at the time it wasn"t worth much," he was telling me at the barn Sunday morning, ".but that might change the first Saturday of May."
Winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby with Lawyer Ron, now 7-for-7 on conventional dirt tracks, gave Holthus the biggest payday of his 50-year career, and his 51st stakes score at Oaklawn, where he is a nine-time champion (although Cole Norman with six straight and counting is closing in).
But Holthus also calls Kentucky home, and he believes Lawyer Ron may have something of a home field advantage at Churchill Downs.
"Lawyer Ron trained a lot at Churchill Last Fall," says Bob, "and he"s familiar with the surroundings. I don"t think he"ll have any problem with the Derby buzz."
Holthus is already prepared for the media blitz.
"Nick Zito had five in the Derby last year," he reminded me, "and Nick needed to build a platform to talk to the media. When Nick left town, he left the platform for me. So I guess I"ll be using it."
Such is the world of thoroughbred racing that this year Holthus will be the media darling, and Zito won"t even get to the Derby.
That brings us to Sinister Minister, whose Beyer number winning the Blue Grass was 17 points higher than Lawyer Ron"s Derby number.
Trainer Baffert said today that he did not receive a single phone call from the media regarding Sinister Minister before the Blue Grass.
I know for a fact that I personally called Bob twice to inquire about Sinister Minister, and both times got the machine. At the time, Sinister Minister was coming to the Arkansas Derby, but at the 11 th hour, Baffert called an audible, and sent him to the Blue Grass to take advantage of Keeneland"s historic speed bias.
Since Sinister Minister won the Blue Grass by 13 lengths, I would say Baffert made the right choice.
And now you would have to be nuts to dismiss Sinister Minister as a major player come the first Saturday.
And pay to note that, between them, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen will account for 25 per cent of the Derby field.
Before the Blue Grass, Baffert said he would gladly trade his three Derby horses for Brother Derek. Somehow, I doubt that"s the case now.
Two other Derby horses you don"t want to overlook are Steppenwolfer and Sweetnorthernsaint.
This is what trainer Peitz says about Steppenwolfer"s chances:
"There will be a lot of speed in the Derby. At the eighth pole, most of those horses will have their tongues hanging out, and my horse will be running by them."
Dem is fighting words for a soft-spoken guy from Little Rock.
But he may have a point.
Finally, it was good to read the following in Wednesday"s editions of Daily Racing Form:
"Miesque"s Approval received national notoriety when he spoiled Jerry Bailey"s hopes of going out a winner."
But there are good things in the Form, like my illustrated ad in last Saturday"s editions urging the people to call in for my full-card selections at Keeneland and Oaklawn.
Space restrictions forbid me to list all the winners, exacta boxes, and trifecta boxes we hit.but believe me, there were a bunch.
I also want to take a minute to thank Ralph Siricco for putting me three times last week on his hugely popular radio program out of Las Vegas.I implored his audience to play a Lawyer Ron-Steppenwolfer exacta in the Arkansas Derby. And I guess they did because it came back a paltry $13.80 in a 13-horse field.
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