01/23/2009 12:00AM

Levine pair double trouble


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The long and the short of it is that One Step Ahead and Stettler are the ones to beat in Sunday's co-featured optional claimers, and both 4-year-old fillies are trained by Bruce Levine.

Both $46,000 races carry first-level allowance conditions, but One Step Ahead and Stettler already have been there and done that, so they were entered for the optional $75,000 claim price.

One Step Ahead and Stettler are five-time winners, and come off impressive off-the-pace scores at the same level under Rajiv Maragh, who has a return call on each.

On New Year's Day, One Step Ahead had to steady to avoid a fallen rider on the first turn, then circled four wide from last to win going away. Stettler came from next-to-last at the quarter pole in her first local start Dec. 14 to also win decisively.

"Both of them caught closing racetracks," Levine said. "Speed hasn't been anywhere near as good. Even after two or three races, it looks like [speed] is getting golden, and then they start coming from left field; it's just weird. Both days they had the racetrack in their favor, and it just kind of worked out."

One Step Ahead is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in race 3 at a mile and 70 yards, despite the fact that she will break outside all five of her rivals.

Sentimental Union, who spent most of 2008 running on turf for Tom Albertrani, enters race 3 off a sharp second against Yet Again in her first start at the meet. Yet Again returned to win the Affectionately Stakes two starts later. Despite a 1-for-15 record that includes five runner-up finishes, Sentimental Union is a solid threat from the rail under leading rider Ramon Dominguez.

Bourbon Maid, who comes off four straight seconds with an improving line of Beyer Speed Figures, makes her second start back from a layoff for trainer Rick Violette Jr., and picks up jockey Rosie Napravnik.

My Dinah, Burning Calories, and Better Again complete the lineup in race 3.

In race 8, Stettler breaks from post 4 in a field of eight going six furlongs, and she has been tabbed as a slight 2-1 choice over Yankee Victoria on the morning line.

Two starts back, Yankee Victoria beat Stettler in a second-level allowance at Philadelphia Park. Yankee Victoria returned from a freshening in the slop here Jan. 7, and faded as the 9-5 choice.

Other contenders include the stakes-placed Mikeslittlegirl and Casino Kay.