Trainer Bob Holthus is back in Louisville following another successful meet at his winter base at Oaklawn Park, but there's a difference this year for the 53-year training veteran.Holthus may just have this year's Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite in his barn in Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner Lawyer Ron, who arrived back in Louisville two days before his trainer's April 19 arrival.Holthus was back in his regular seat on a viewing stand near his Churchill Downs barn for the first time this year April 20 and watched the son of Langfuhr gallop once around Churchill Downs' one-mile oval just before the break for track maintenance."Everything went fine," Holthus said. "We just wanted to get a little light exercise in him. He's done well since he's been here, and he feels good. Of course, he was here in the fall, so he knows a little bit about it."Lawyer Ron will give Holthus his third Derby starter in as many years and his fifth overall. He finished fourth in the 1988 Kentucky Derby with Proper Reality, his other Arkansas Derby winner."Up until now, Proper Reality was probably the best horse I've ever trained, but this is just a much better horse," said Holthus. "He's got an excellent stride. Some people have compared his stride to Secretariat. He does things effortlessly that takes more out of other horses. That's what makes him such a good horse."Holthus said he plans for "one pretty good work" for Lawyer Ron under the Twin Spires April 29."Fortunately, he's been a sound horse," he said. "I'd rather run him than work him. He's going to have more starts than any of the Derby horses, so he's fit. Plus, the bottom line's better when you run them."Lawyer Ron, owned by the Estate of James T. Hines Jr., boasts a career record of 7-1-3 from 14 starts and career earnings of $1,220,008.
Holthus still has an outside chance for another entrant in this year's Run for the Roses in Thomas Franks' Red Raymond. The Rebel (gr. III) runner-up finished a disappointing 10th in the Arkansas Derby, but he has collected $93,120 in graded stakes earnings, which would rank him 24th among horses with hopes of making the Derby's maximum field of 20 horses."We jogged him today, too, and he went well," said Holthus. "We'll just have to see how everything comes along, whether he can get in or not."Holthus is looking at other options for the son of Deputy Commander."We'll just look around the country," he said. "There'll be some place to run him. But he won't run Derby Week, if he doesn't get in."