01/14/2010 1:00AM

Cush has done well off layoffs


Andy Leggio trained Grade 1 winner Happy Ticket for owner Stewart Madison during the filly's immensely successful racing career. Somewhat ironically, Leggio and Madison have no starter in the $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for Louisiana-bred female sprinters on Saturday at Fair Grounds, but send out a live runner named Cush in the $60,000 John E. Jackson Memorial Stakes for Louisiana-bred males.

Cush has not raced since June 18 - but that's not a mark against him. Cush, a Madison homebred, has scored all five of his wins at Fair Grounds, and he seems to lose his form during the summer. And when Leggio brings Cush back to the races in New Orleans, he tends to bring him back ready to run. Cush won an allowance race by more than eight lengths coming back from a break in March 2008, and just about a year ago, he won another sprint allowance returning from a layoff of about the same length as the one he exits Saturday.

With a blazing half-mile gate work on Jan. 1, Cush looks fit and ready to go in the Jackson, but his trip might not work out favorably. Cush figures to return a sharp horse and show speed, which could land him in an early duel with John Charles to his inside and Lee City Slew to his outside.

Several runners may be waiting to pounce on tiring speed, among them the winner of the 2008 Jackson, Mr. Porter. Mr. Porter finished a distant fourth in the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint, but may still be coming around after a lengthy layoff that ended in October.

Captain Buddy finished fifth in the Champions Day Sprint, but ran better two races ago in an open allowance race, and relishes the Jackson's 5 1/2-furlong distance.

A fast pace seems all but certain in the Happy Ticket, another 5 1/2-furlong race, with five habitual front-runners entered. The two closers are Sax Appeal, who will be making her first start since Aug. 1 for trainer Steve Asmussen, and Wanna Cuddle, who rallied for second in a high-end Louisiana-bred allowance race Nov. 15 at Fair Grounds. Wanna Cuddle finished sixth of eight in the Dec. 12 Champions Day Ladies, but did not show her best in sloppy conditions, trainer Sam Ishaq said.