12/13/2007 1:00AM

Post shouldn't hurt a relaxed Sterwins

EmailOn paper, it appears that a move to turf racing this season has propelled Sterwins to new heights. Not so, says trainer Malcolm Pierce, who took over the training of Sterwins this past May.

"It's maybe not so much the turf, but that the horse has learned to relax now as a 4-year-old," said Pierce.

The Pierce-trained Devilment won the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap last season at Fair Grounds, and in this year's edition of the race on Saturday, Sterwins - with his newfound in-race cool - looks as good as anyone.

Sterwins, who drew post 9, was one of nine horses entered in the main body of the field. Going Wild will race only if the race gets moved to the main track. Sterwins would stay in, too, should the Diliberto shift to dirt.

"He's the kind of horse you can do that with," said Pierce.

Sterwins began his career with Todd Pletcher, and was off between December 2006 and this past July, when he made his first start for Pierce. Up to that point, Sterwins had raced only on dirt, but Pierce said there had been no grand plan to switch surfaces.

"The guy who trained him on the farm, he had worked him on the grass and said he was okay on it, but it was more a case that the first race that came along for him was on the grass," said Pierce.

Sterwins finished rapidly and wound up running second in that comeback race, a Canadian-bred stakes, and then won a similar race in his next start. But Sterwins's best performance of the year was a one-length loss in the Sky Classic Stakes to Cloudy's Knight, who returned to win the prestigious Canadian International.

The outside post shouldn't hurt Sterwins too much Saturday. He has the tactical speed to drop in for position behind Island Warrior, a stretchout sprinter making his turf debut. Sterwins should be placed close to Ascertain, a Grade 3 winner this past spring but a distant 10th last out over yielding Churchill turf in the River City Handicap.

Likely to make a late impression is Storm Treasure, who was stuck forever on one career win, but comes into the Diliberto after consecutive allowance victories. Even while he was mired in a losing streak, Storm Treasure managed to finish a close third behind Cloudy's Knight and Devilment in last season's Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup.

Northern Scene and Got the Last Laugh both are in tough, but Save Big Money, Give Me Credit, and Optimer all have a decent chance to hit the board.