08/29/2007 11:00PM

Tortuga Straits tries turf in return


Tortuga Flats, a multiple stakes winner on dirt, won a stakes in her debut on the turf. Her trainer, Ralph Irwin, will be hoping for similar results Saturday, when he sends out her half-brother Tortuga Straits in the $75,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin at Louisiana Downs.

The about one-mile turf race is for 3-year-olds bred in Louisiana. It has drawn 10, including Ovie and Wildrally, who each won an open-company turf race in his last start; Pinecrest Boy, winner of the $75,000 B.B. Rayburn at Evangeline Downs in June; and Hallway, a fast-closing second in the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Derby here July 21.

But no horse in the division has compiled a better record than Tortuga Straits. He is 6 for 6, with one of those wins coming via a disqualification in an open-company stakes. His turf debut will come on a program that also drew Tortuga Flats, who in the third race will be seeking her fourth turf allowance score this meet at Louisiana Downs.

Tortuga Straits is making his first start of the meet. He shows a strong set of works for what will be his first race since a 1 1/2-length win in the $125,000 Premier Night Prince, a seven-furlong race run around two turns at Delta Downs on Feb. 3.

"He had a minor injury that just needed time, so we kept him in the barn and he got some downtime," Irwin said. "He's come back good. He's aggressive. He seemed to have matured through the whole time.

"We're throwing some curves at him, going turf, and we've tried to expose him to the turf. He's worked twice on it, and he seems to handle it good."

From a pedigree standpoint, Irwin said that Tortuga Band, the dam of Tortuga Straits, won on turf, while another of her foals, Lightsnatcher, won a turf allowance in his lone start on the grass.

Tortuga Straits will break from post 5 under Luis Quinonez.

Ovie ran one of the best races of his career in his last start, when he wired the field in a $50,000 optional claimer at the distance of the Erwin. He will break from post 4 under Carlos Gonzalez.

"He's won three races in his life, and they all were on the lead," said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains Ovie. "He likes it up front."

Wildrally won his maiden at Louisiana Downs in May, then won a $50,000 optional claimer at Arlington in his last start on June 28. John Jacinto has the mount for trainer Tom Amoss.