James T. Hines Jr.'s homebred Lawyer Ron had the final word in Saturday's $268,000 Risen Star (gr. III) for 3-year-olds, romping to victory over six foes at the Fair Grounds meeting at Harrah's Louisiana Downs.
With regular rider John McKee aboard, Lawyer Ron was keen from the start, taking the lead from Mark of Success on the backstretch and leading the rest of the way in his graded stakes debut. He drew off in the stretch to win by 8 1/4 lengths in a solid time of 1:43 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
"I had a lot of horse under me. He strided out well under me," McKee said. "He's a horse that has some tactical speed. He rates real kindly for me."
Mark of Success, ridden by Calvin Borel, held on for second while Hyte Regency, with Corey Lanerie aloft, settled for third after looming as a threat in upper stretch.
Todd Pletcher's Saint Augustus, favored slightly over Lawyer Ron at odds of 5-2, was not a factor for jockey Robby Albarado while finishing fifth.
It took Lawyer Ron six starts to break his maiden for trainer Robert Holthus. But since being taken off the turf and Polytrack at Turfway Park and stretching out, he has won three races in a row by huge margins. The Kentucky-bred chestnut son of Langfuhr
was coming off an 8 1/2-length win in the Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs 14 days ago. Prior to that he won a Dec. 9 optional claiming/allowance event that was switched from the Louisiana Downs turf to dirt by 10 3/4 lengths.
"He just drew off again," Holthus said. "He's getting better. He always showed some talent. I had about 20 2-year-old maidens at the time, and he looked like he wanted to be on the turf, so we started him there. For a colt, he's easy to work with around the barn and easy to rate on the track."
Mark of Success led the opening quarter mile of :23 3/5 before Lawyer Ron, close to the leader from the start, took over after a half-mile in :47 1/5 and six furlongs in 1:11 3/5. Lawyer Ron left the field behind in upper stretch and was lengthening his lead with every stride in the final furlong.
Lawyer Ron ($7.40, $3.80, and $2.60) improved his career mark to 4-1-3 in 11 starts while winning for the fourth time in six starts on the dirt. The winner's share of $160,800 increased Lawyer Ron's earnings to $290,008.
Mark of Success ($4.60, $3.40), who won the first two races of his career, held off Hyte Regency ($2.60) for second. Hyte Regency made his first appearance since a third-place showing in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs Nov. 26.
"He was in a good spot, and I thought I had a lot of horse," Borel said of the runner-up. "I can't fault him. The winner is peaking right now. It looks like (Holthus) has a Derby horse."
Malameeze finished fourth, followed by Saint Augustus and Midway Man.
Red Bordeaux, racing in fourth on the far turn, pulled up in distress heading into the far turn.