01/17/2009 1:00AM

'Sarah' steps up to stakes for new owner

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Three months ago, Successful Sarah was running in an $8,000 claiming race at Calder. On Sunday, Successful Sarah could become a stakes winner when she faces five rivals in the $65,000 Affectionately at Aqueduct.

Handicappers seeking a fresh face may opt for Successful Sarah over the likes of Spritely and Are We Dreamin, who figure prominently in the wagering in the Affectionately, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track.

Successful Sarah won that Oct. 5 low-level claiming race and was taken by Herman Wilensky, who had lost the horse last January in a $20,000 claiming race. Wilensky immediately stepped Successful Sarah up in class, and she finished a troubled second in a first-level allowance race before winning at that condition and at the second-level allowance condition, both in convincing front-running fashion.

Successful Sarah drew the attention of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable, which purchased her privately following the second allowance score and turned her over to trainer John Terranova. Successful Sarah has been in New York since mid-December and has impressed her new connections in the morning.

"She has gotten very good," said Tonja Terranova, John's wife and assistant who has overseen the filly's training. "Sometimes just maturing they can turn around and become nice horses. Every indication is she really has come around, and she's definitely ready for the race on Sunday."

Though her last two wins have come on the lead - she broke from the rail both times - Successful Sarah has won from off the pace before. Tonja Terranova said she worked Successful Sarah behind another horse in her most recent breeze.

"She definitely does not need the lead," said Terranova, who will give Eddie Castro a leg up from post 5.

Successful Sarah or Spritely figures to be on the lead. Spritely won the Honey Bee at the Meadowlands in front-running fashion in November before being run down in the Restored Hope by the Terranova-trained Awesome I Am here Jan. 2. Spritely stumbled at the start of the Restored Hope, but recovered quickly and ran a solid race.

Are We Dreamin, who went 7 for 19 in 2008, wheels back on short rest after finishing fourth in the Interborough at six furlongs on New Year's Day. Trainer Randi Persaud feels his mare was compromised by drawing the rail that day.

"She's chicken on the inside," said Persaud, who hopes his filly can be a stalking presence from post 4.