06/23/2004 11:00PM

Highweight Aunt Sophie one to beat


AUBURN, Wash. - Aunt Sophie will head a field of nine older fillies and mares in Saturday's $40,000 King County Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Aunt Sophie, a 6-year-old daughter of Altazarr bred and owned by trainer Dr. Charles Barth, will carry high weight of 119 pounds, while conceding from one to 10 pounds to her rivals in the one-mile race. Aunt Sophie, who won a pair of route stakes last year in California, is coming off a head victory over Marva Jean in the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislator's Handicap on June 6. She was second to Lasting Code in the 6 1/2-furlong Hastings Park Handicap in her prior start on May 9, when she was making her seasonal debut.

Lasting Code, third in the Washington State Legislators, is second in the weights at 118, followed by Canadian stars Brave Miss and Elana d'Amour, who were assigned 117. When asked to identify Aunt Sophie's main competition on Sunday, Barth skipped down to Ruby Dawn, who is fifth in the weights at 116 pounds.

"She is the one who really scares me," he said. "She is sprinting so well now, and last year she improved a bunch when they sent her long."

Ruby Dawn, a 4-year-old daughter of Pioneering trained by Dan Markle, won her route debut by more than 16 lengths against modest maiden claimers last season. She came back to defeat allowance company by nearly seven lengths at a mile before faltering to finish fourth in the one-mile John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes.

This season, Ruby Dawn has won two of three sprint attempts over allowance company.