05/07/2010 12:00AM

Knight Raider sheds blinkers in comeback

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AUBURN, Wash. - Back in business following a seven-month freshening, Knight Raider makes her 2010 debut Sunday at Emerald Downs in the $50,000 Federal Way Handicap, a 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

A three-time stakes winner last summer, Knight Raider hasn't raced since Sept. 13, when she finished fourth at 1-5 odds in the restricted Diane Kem Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. Prior to that, she won four consecutive races by a combined 34 1/4 lengths, all in front-running fashion.

But for all of her talent, Knight Raider was a headstrong horse, often expending too much energy in the early stages. Trainer Doris Harwood, part of a five-person ownership group, has been working to fine-tune Knight Raider for her first start at 3.

"We took the blinkers off," Harwood said. "We worked her out of the gate without blinkers on Wednesday and she came out of there like a rocket. Horses relax better without them, and to carry her speed farther, I think that's the way to go."

Ricky Frazier, aboard for each of Knight Raider's starts last year, has the call again Sunday.

"She looks the part, she's fit, and she's sound," Harwood said of Knight Raider, who will break from post 6 in the field of nine. "If everything comes together, and she's an improved 3-year-old, she has a pretty good chance."

Include the Baby, a smashing winner in her racing debut April 11, also should be one of the favorites. After setting a pressured pace, Include the Baby separated herself from the field at the top of the stretch, winning the 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:02.60. Trained by Jim Penney, Include the Baby will be ridden by Juan Gutierrez, who has been aboard for most of her morning workouts.

"She's got so much raw talent, we really don't even know what this filly is yet," said Kay Cooper, who runs day-to-day operations for Penney. "Every time Juan comes back he's got goose bumps. Hopefully, I've got her schooled well enough for everything."

Other contenders include Have'n a Wild Time, who ran down Knight Raider in the Diane Kem Stakes; Feeling Fancy, who's 2 for 2 at Emerald Downs; and Runaway Speed, who captured her racing debut two weeks ago.

Snowbound Marquita, Zenovit, Hello Harriet and Private Fortune complete the field.