03/18/2007 11:00PM

Tortuga Straits strong in drill


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Tortuga Straits is one of the most accomplished 3-year-olds on the grounds at Oaklawn Park, with a 6-for-6 record, and last Sunday he put in a strong work in preparation for a possible stakes start this weekend, said his trainer, Ralph Irwin.

Irwin said Tortuga Straits is being considered for the $100,000 Crescent City Derby, a 1 1/16-mile race for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds on Sunday. He breezed five furlongs here in 1:03.40 under regular rider Luis Quinonez.

"I was thrilled with the last quarter," said Irwin. "He showed the push-button that we've been really working on going two turns. He sat back and waited for Luis, and when Luis asked him, he was gone."

Tortuga Straits has registered four of his wins around one turn, beginning with his maiden victory and including the $100,000 John Franks Memorial Sales Futurity and the $100,000 Lafayette, both at Evangeline Downs, and the $100,000 Champions Day Juvenile at Fair Grounds.

In his two starts around two turns, he was second in the $150,000 Jean Lafitte Futurity at Delta Downs but placed first after winner Go Poppa Fooze was disqualified for testing in excess of the permitted levels of bicarbonates, and he captured the $125,000 Louisiana Premier Night Prince at Delta on Feb. 3.

Karla Balensiefen owns Tortuga Straits, and her husband, John, owns the comebacking Tortuga Flats, an older half-sister to Tortuga Straits who is also working at Oaklawn.

"I'm going to try to run her one time here before the meet's over," said Irwin.

Tortuga Flats has won 6 of 10 starts, with four of those wins in stakes. She has earned $245,660. Tortuga Straits has won five stakes, and has career earnings of $363,000. Irwin's training job with the siblings is not lost on the Balensiefens.

"He goes out of his way to really treat those two special," said John Balensiefen. "He's done a wonderful job. I mean, when you start 16 times and win 12 races and nine of them were stakes, that's a pretty good job."

Honeybee runners eye Fantasy

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent out Time's Mistress and Grace Happens to finish first and third in the $100,000 Honeybee last Friday, and said both will likely advance to the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy here April 6. Time's Mistress won by 4 3/4 lengths over High Heels.

"I was impressed," Lukas said of Time's Mistress, who had placed in two stakes leading up to the Honeybee.

Grace Happens rallied for third in the Honeybee.

"Grace Happens, she needs more distance," Lukas said. "She came flying on the end. She made up a lot of ground."

High Heels is also being pointed for the Fantasy, her trainer, Gary Hartlage, said Monday. High Heels was an eight-length allowance winner here in January, and before that was third in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs.

Lemon Drop Mom faces winners

The promising 3-year-old filly Lemon Drop Mom comes into the featured eighth race Wednesday off a six-length maiden score and should rule a solid favorite in the first-level allowance. Her chief threat in the 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares is Light and Liberty.

Lemon Drop Mom stalked the pace, then darted home fast when she won her maiden at 1 1/16 miles here Feb. 23. She will break from post 3 under Stewart Elliott.

"If she's laying second, third, or fourth, just off the pace, and then makes the run that she did last time, I'll be real happy," said Tim Ritchey, who trains Lemon Drop Mom.

Light and Liberty was second at this distance and level on March 7. She drew the rail, and will be ridden by Joe Johnson.

"I imagine she'll by laying third or fourth," said Hartlage, who trains Light and Liberty.

Holthus okay after scare

Trainer Bob Holthus was transported from Oaklawn to St. Joseph's Hospital in Hot Springs prior to the fifth race Sunday after he felt dizzy. He was released on Sunday night and feels fine, he said on Monday.

"My blood pressure dropped down a little too low," he said. "I didn't want them to take me to the hospital, but they insisted on it. I feel fine. I had a little bug and kind of got dehydrated. It's happened to me a time or two before."