09/08/2009 11:00PM

Knight Raider points to easier assignment

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AUBURN, Wash. - Calling her decision a "no-brainer," trainer Doris Harwood will start 2-year-old filly sensation Knight Raider in the restricted Diane Kem Stakes on Sunday at Emerald Downs, rather than run her against males in the $75,000 Gottstein Futurity on Sept. 26.

Riding a four-race winning streak and already a winner around two turns, Knight Raider likely would have been the second wagering choice in the Gottstein behind Hollywood Harbor, a gelding who has won three consecutive stakes. The Diane Kem, for 2-year-old statebred fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs, figures to be a much easier assignment.

"Why run her against the boys when we can run against the fillies?" Harwood said. "She'll get a field she can outrun, she'll have four stakes victories if she wins it, and we can highlight her in a race for Washington-breds, which we really want to do. We'll pick the easier spot, and the difference in the purses - $50,000 versus $75,000 - isn't that big anymore."

After a poor showing in her racing debut, when she finished nearly 12 lengths behind the winner in a $20,000 maiden claimer, Knight Raider has been virtually untouchable, sprinting to front-running victories in a $12,500 maiden race, the restricted Knights Choice Stakes, the Angie C Stakes, and, most recently, the one-mile Barbara Shinpoch Stakes on Aug. 30 as the 1-5 favorite. The combined margin of victory in the four races: 34 1/4 lengths.

Harwood had a similarly talented juvenile filly, Smarty Deb, two years ago. After winning the Angie C. and the Barbara Shinpoch, Smarty Deb vanquished the boys in the Gottstein Futurity and then ran fifth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park. Sent to Southern California to resume her career, Smarty Deb sustained a series of injuries and never raced again.

Knight Raider and Smarty Deb are the only juvenile fillies to win four races in a season at Emerald Downs.

"They're both very talented fillies," Harwood said. "They have opposite styles. Smarty Deb never went to the front, she hardly ever broke well, and then she ran by them like they were tied to posts. This filly, I don't know if she'll run as far as Smarty Deb. We'll probably find out next year at 3, when it's more of a class test. Smarty Deb was the best horse I ever had my hands on. It's just a tragedy she didn't get to race longer."

A daughter of the Deputy Minister stallion Tribunal, Knight Raider has earned $76,663 for her five Washington owners: Harwood; breeder Nina Hagen of Enumclaw; Hollis Sturgeon of Renton; Delores Christiansen of Kent; and Colleen Caufield of Eatonville. They have no plans to rush her.

"We'll turn her out for the winter," Harwood said. "She'll get a nice long break, and then come into Emerald next spring with a real advantage."

Elusive Horizon may experiment on turf

Harwood was less certain about plans for another stable star, Elusive Horizon, the undisputed queen of the older filly and mare division. Bred in Kentucky by owner Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms, the 4-year-old Elusive Horizon has won three consecutive stakes, including the $100,000 Emerald Distaff in her most recent outing Aug. 16, and is undefeated in five starts around two turns. She isn't eligible to run in the season-ending Belle Roberts, a race restricted to horses bred in Washington or British Columbia.

"Jerre said he may want to try her in a grass race at Santa Anita," Harwood said. "I think he's leaning toward bringing her back next season at 5. I certainly hope so."

Steep declines at yearling auction

A Cahill Road colt topped the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association summer yearling auction Tuesday, selling for $60,000 at the Morris J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion adjacent to Emerald Downs. Jill and Dave Heerensperger of Bellevue, Wash., purchased the colt, who is a full brother to 2007 Longacres Mile winner The Great Face and a half-brother to 2009 Governor's Handicap winner Atta Boy Roy. The sales-topper was bred and consigned by Patricia Murphy and partners Rick and Debbie Pabst's Blue Ribbon Farm.

Of the 179 yearlings in the catalog, 165 passed through the ring and 99 were sold. As expected, sales figures declined markedly from 2008. The average sales price dipped from $11,466 to $8,419 (27 percent), while the median price ($4,500) declined 31 percent, and gross revenues were off 34 percent. Sixty-seven yearlings failed to meet their reserve, compared with 89 in 2008, when 215 yearlings were cataloged.

Petra Lewin's Rainbow Meadows Farm bred and consigned the top-priced filly at $22,000, a half-sister to Grade 2 stakes winner Celtic Dreamin sired by Delineator. Ron Crockett, president of Emerald Downs, bought the filly.

Char Clark Thoroughbreds, as agent, consigned the second-highest-priced offering, a $42,000 son of Roar and a half-brother to 2005 Washington champion 2-year-old Schoolin You. He was purchased by Jim Hour of Sea-Tac, Wash.