05/20/2009 11:00PM

Tortuga Straits goes for three in row

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Tortuga Straits has seen his stock rise just sitting in his stall at Louisiana Downs. Since Tortuga Straits won an allowance last month, the runner-up from the race, Gold Coyote, has come back and turned in a big effort to win the $50,000 Express at Lone Star Park.

"We were pleased to see him run that well over there," said Ralph Irwin, who trains Tortuga Straits.

Saturday, it will be Tortuga Straits who returns to the stakes ranks for the $50,000 Big Earl at Louisiana Downs. The six-furlong race drew 10 older Louisiana-breds, including Cush, a winner of three straight this past meet at Fair Grounds.

Tortuga Straits has won back-to-back allowances at Oaklawn Park and Lone Star. He shortened up from a stalking win at six furlongs at Oaklawn to 5 1/2 furlongs for the Lone Star race April 26. Tortuga Straits dueled on the lead that afternoon before going on to a two-length win over Gold Coyote.

"Luckily, we got a nice break and he responded to being closer to the pace," said Irwin. "He went off and went ahead and took care of business."

Luis Quinonez has the mount on Tortuga Straits, who could get a stalking trip behind a number of speed horses in the Big Earl. An honest pace would also benefit Cush. He tested graded rivals for the first time in the Count Fleet at Oaklawn on April 10, finishing a close sixth in a six-furlong race that went in a quick 1:09.80.

"I think they just out-stepped him in the Count Fleet," said his trainer, Andrew Leggio Jr. "He only got beat a couple of lengths. He ran his race. The winner, Semaphore Man, is a nice horse."

Cush, 5 for 12 lifetime, will attempt to be the latest next-out winner from the Count Fleet, behind Accredit, who was third and returned to win the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap, and Grand Sensation, who was eighth and came back for an optional claiming win at Arlington.

Coach Mike is one of the top contenders in the $50,000 Power Doll, the filly and mare counterpart to the Big Earl.

* Heza Fast Classic is out to defend his title against a sharp This Candys Royal in Saturday night's $89,190 East Championship Challenge at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. The stakes is one of six on the card for Quarter Horses.