Prohibitive favorite Lawyer Ron overcame some early eagerness to record a gate-to-wire win in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds before 22,249 at Oaklawn Park for his fourth straight victory Saturday.With John McKee in the irons, Lawyer Ron completed the one-mile event in a slow 1:40 on a dull track, coming home in :13 for the final furlong as runner-up Steppenwolfer loomed up to challenge in mid-stretch. The winning margin was three-quarters of a length. Red Raymond rallied from far back in his 2006 debut to get third, with Music School finishing fourth.McKee said Lawyer Ron settled in as the field reached the backstretch.
"I heard Steppenwolfer come to us (in the stretch), but I kept him to his business and he gave me a strong finish."The Southwest was postponed five days due to an ice storm that forced the cancellation of last week's three-day holiday racing weekend. Sent off at odds of 1-2 in the field of 10, McKee was trying to restrain Lawyer Ron early as the chestnut colt hooked up with Travelin Leroy coming out of the gate to get the lead in an opening quarter mile of :23 1/5. Able to settle down on the backstretch as Travelin Leroy fell back, the homebred son of Langfuhr -Donation (Lord Avie) clicked the half-mile in :48 and three-quarters in 1:13 3/5 while maintaining a two-length advantage. Under pressure from McKee coming off the final turn, Lawyer Ron held on well as Steppenwolfer rallied.Lawyer Ron is trained by Robert Holthus for the estate of James Hines Jr., the breeder/owner from Owensboro, Ky., who died Tuesday in an apparent swimming pool accident. Hines' funeral was Friday.The colt had won his previous three races by a combined 27 1/2 lengths. But Lawyer Ron was forced to work hard Saturday. Though the final time wasn't good, Lawyer Ron earned points for grit when turning back Steppenwolfer and Corey Lanerie as the deep closer seemed to have the most momentum. The Kentucky bred improved his record to five wins in as many tries on dirt while he's been blanked in seven starts on turf and Polytrack. He increased his earnings to $440,008.This was the second straight Southwest victory for the veteran trainer Holthus, who won last year with Greater Good, and his fifth Southwest victory overall. It also further established Lawyer Ron as Oaklawn Park's best for the major 3-year-races down the road.It was also a good effort for Steppenwolfer, two-for-two in his career before Saturday's race. He showed no early speed in his stakes debut but rallied nicely on the turn and was finishing with interest while 3 1/4 lengths clear. Lawyer Ron and Steppenwolfer should hook up again in the $300,000 Rebel (gr. III) at a 1 1/16 miles on March 18. "If he can give me that same late move at the longer distance of the next race, we might make it real interesting," Lanerie said."Going a mile, I didn't know if we could handle everything," Steppenwolfer trainer Dan Peitz said. "Our horse wants to run farther."Red Raymond had wrapped up his 2-year-old season with a fourth-place showing in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Nov. 26 and made a good run through the stretch to sweep past Music School by 2 1/2 lengths. The latter colt tired in the lane after tracking in striking distance most of the way.Next came Mark of Success, Sharp Attack, Kingsfield, Celluloid Hero, Travelin Leroy, and first-time starter Agrapha, who stopped in the stretch.Lawyer Ron, coming off an 8 1/4-length win in the Risen Star (gr. III) at Louisiana Downs, paid $3, $2.40, and $2.20, topping a $10.80 exacta with Steppenwolfer ($4.20, $3.60). Red Raymond, also trained by Holthus and ridden by Luis Quinonez, was $7 to show.The $150,000 winner's purse goes into a trust overseen by Ron Bamberger, a lawyer for whom the horse is named.Mountain Valley Stakes
Earlier on the card, Urban Guy, the lukewarm 3-1 choice ridden by Robby Albarado, registered a 5 3/4-length win over Fidyrich and Stewart Elliott in the $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs.Tim Ritchey saddled the winner, a chestnut son of Marquetry owned by Greg L. Warren. Catonight finished third in the 10-horse field. The final time was 1:12.(Chart, Equibase)