02/18/2009 1:00AM

Pair of stars launch comebacks

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NEW ORLEANS - Friday is a day of comebacks for former standouts at Fair Grounds, as both Costa Rising and Sterwins return to the races after long layoffs.

Costa Rising, one of the outstanding Louisiana-bred horses in recent history, looks to take the next step in his recovery from ankle surgery in the fifth race, an optional $50,000 claiming event scheduled for 7 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Costa Rising meets the allowance condition of nonwinners in a year only by having been on the shelf. He has been rehabilitating a back ankle after having a bone chip removed last winter.

"I couldn't be more pleased with his progress," said trainer Glenn Delahoussaye. "His work pattern has been consistent and progressive."

In his last race, Costa Rising capped a stupendous 4-year-old campaign with a 15 1/4-length victory in the Louisiana Classic on Dec. 8, 2007.

Three months earlier, Costa Rising recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 118 while winning an allowance race at Evangeline Downs by 17 1/2 lengths.

He lost his entire 5-year-old season in rehabilitation, and his connections are working to make sure he is fit and sound.

"I look at it as the first step in a journey back," said Delahoussaye. "I'm looking for him to get something out of it and come back sound."

Costa Rising has been back in training since October, with a series of works at the Evangeline Training Center.

"He's looking for some racing now; you can do a lot with training but you can't replicate a race," said Delahoussaye.

The other comeback attempt on the card comes in the ninth race, where graded stakes winner Sterwins runs for his first time since finishing second in the Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes at Woodbine last June.

Sterwins will meet six others in an optional $50,000 claimer, also open to nonwinners in a year, going 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"There wasn't anything seriously wrong, he just came up sore after his last race at Woodbine," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "He's been working well, and hopefully we've got him fit enough to run well off the layoff."

Sterwins had been running the best races of his career before going to the shelf, with a victory in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland last April.