07/27/2005 11:00PM

Belvoir has top two in Express field


AUBURN, Wash. - The Howard Belvoir-trained duo of Courting Seattle and Tusko T. will head a field of nine in Saturday's six-furlong Emerald Express, the first stakes at the meeting for 2-year-old males.

Courting Seattle has won both of his starts. He scored a 5 1/2-length win in his debut, a five-furlong maiden special weight event June 5, before scoring by 2 3/4 lengths in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race

on July 4. By Doneraile Court, Courting Seattle accomplished both wins after dueling for the early lead and is again expected to help set the pace under regular rider Jennifer Whitaker.

Tusko T. won his lone outing from off the pace, defeating maiden special weight company by two lengths June 26. He got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.40. Whitaker was up for that race, but she will yield the mount to Juan Gutierrez on Saturday. Tusko T. will not run coupled with Courting Seattle because of separate ownership.

The main threat to the Belvoir trainees might be Raise the Bluff, who comes off a 6 3/4-length score over maiden special weight company July 17, when he matched Tusko T.'s clocking of 1:04.40 for 5 1/2 furlongs. In his prior outing, Raise the Bluff ran second in Tusko T.'s maiden win.

"He came back and ran a really nice race in his second start, which was good to see," said trainer Junior Coffey. "I think he'll probably need to move forward again to beat Howard's colts, but the longer distance might help him. I have the feeling he is eventually going to be a route horse."

Also a threat is Canadian invader One Special Browny, who has an edge in experience with four races behind him. One Special Browny, a Washington-bred trained by Ed Thompson, comes off a second-place finish to another Washington-bred, Bound to Be MVP, in the six-furlong Ladnesian Stakes at Hastings on July 10.

Thompson won the Emerald Express in 1996 with Name for Norm, who won four Emerald stakes for 2-year-olds en route to being named the track's first horse of the meeting. Like Name for Norm, One Special Browny was purchased out of the WTBA winter sale by owner Bindy Sangara.