08/09/2006 11:00PM

'Sarah' can even the score


When the 3-year-old Sarah Jane made her turf debut in the Tomboy Stakes at River Downs on May 20, many bettors concluded she would show marked improvement, being that she is a daughter of turf champion Northern Spur out of a Lear Fan mare. What they could not foresee was Sarah Jane's hard-fought victory being overturned after she bore into Luvaprivate, who was elevated to first

On Saturday, Sarah Jane can make amends, but in a far more challenging spot. Unlike the Tomboy, the $50,000 Vivacious Handicap, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, is also open to older Ohio-bred fillies and mares. In addition to tackling her elders, Sarah Jane will have to contend with Luvaprivate and last year's Ohio champion 2-year-old filly, Lillians Choice, who bypassed the Tomboy.

Older fillies and mares generally have the advantage over 3-year-olds this time of year, but with no standout among the older group, the trio of 3-year-olds deserves a long look. This year's Tomboy was one of the swifter renewals, and both Sarah Jane and Luvaprivate figure prominently if they run back to or improve slightly on their Tomboy efforts.

Lillians Choice has spent the summer in Chicago, where she has competed exclusively in sprints. Her last two starts, both optional claimers at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass, yielded a win and a second-place finish by a neck. The question Saturday is whether Lillians Choice can effectively harness her speed while traveling an extra three furlongs.

Among the older entrants, Misty Tab, Bold Passage, and Royal Cup appear to have the best turf credentials. Misty Tab had two stakes wins on the River turf last year, both in Ohio-sired events.

If the Vivacious is moved to the main track, it is doubtful any of the 3-year-olds will be able to match strides with the older mares Bright Pyrite, Imahoneytoo, and Flip Side. Bright Pyrite appears the strongest of the three based on her 3 1/4-length win over Imahoneytoo in the Petro Memorial at Thistledown. Flip Side, who was fourth in the Petro, ended a year-long losing streak with an off-the-turf allowance win at River Downs on July 23.