03/24/2010 11:00PM

Curious Tiger back for next Turf Test step

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Curious Tiger, who rallied late to run down the leaders going nine furlongs last time out, will attempt to win his third race of the meeting in the next segment of the Tampa Turf Test at 1 3/8 miles on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

The Turf Test, a series of starter handicap routes for horses who have started for $16,000 or less in 2009-10, drew 13 horses, though a maximum of 10 will be allowed to start.

Curious Tiger, from the barn of leading trainer Kathleen O' Connell, came off a six-month layoff to win with a late rally going a mile and 40 yards on the main track in his seasonal debut. After finishing a close third at Gulfstream in a $10,000 starter allowance, he came back to Tampa, where he raced in midpack for six furlongs in the 1 1/8-mile segment of the Turf Test and rallied smartly along the outside in the drive to run down Dontlaffhespaidfor in the final strides for his sixth career victory.

Chip Hunter, who has 15 career victories, moves to a longer distance off a fast-closing second along the inside against a tough field of $25,000 claiming turf runners going a mile last out. He will be seeking his third win of the meet.

Dontlaffhespaidfor led to the late stages of the race won by Curious Tiger. That solid second followed a front-running win going a mile and a 40 yards on the main track with bottom claimers. He looks like the chief speed in this group and if not pressed early could prove tough to catch.

Andys' Blu Buckeye, another from the O' Connell barn, tries the turf for the first time while going after his third straight local win. Recent winners Luckman and Babo look to have longshot chances in the wide-open race.

In race 6, an optional $32,000 claiming turf route at 1 1/16 miles, Blushing Bear, who comes off a short break, seeks his third win in a row.

The strong field also includes On Joline, who has won two of his last three starts for trainer Lynn Scace, and Doctor Cal, who lost by a neck after leading a similar field almost to the wire last time out

Other contenders include Ballonenostrikes, a former stakes- placed veteran who will attempt to bounce back from two sub-par efforts after coming off a long layoff, and Quiet Emarati, who raced against Karelian and Gio Ponti in the Tampa Bay Turf last time out.