07/24/2003 11:00PM

Knockout Crown could be stakes contender


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Trainer Chuck Peery is not about to make the same mistake with Knockout Crown that three of his colleagues have made.

"She's run three times for $25,000, and she's been claimed each time," said Peery, who claimed the 4-year-old filly from a June 11 turf race at Bay Meadows.

On Sunday, Knockout Crown will make her stakes debut in the $40,000 Luther Burbank Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair.

It's a big step up from the claiming ranks and the first allowance condition, where Knockout Crown recorded a victory at Pleasanton in her first start for Peery.

Although she won't be favored in the field of six, which has five betting interests, Knockout Crown seems a contender in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Knockout Crown has decent speed, but she figures to get her preferred stalking trip Sunday. A B Noodle, who set the pace in the Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap at Pleasanton in her last start, is a wire-to-wire threat in her third race after a seven-month layoff.

Knockout Crown will probably sit third behind Centerofattention, who chased A B Noodle early in the Pleasanton stakes.

"I think that's what this filly likes," Peery said of a stalking trip.

Peery went primarily by looks in claiming Knockout Crown, but she has won three of five starts and has a third-place finish while earning $49,890.

"She's a filly who obviously had some problems, because she didn't start until she was 4 years old," Peery said.

Knockout Crown won her debut for trainer Aimee Dollase and was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Jack Carava. After winning a starter allowance race, she was entered for $25,000 and was claimed by Jerry Hollendorfer from a fourth-place finish.

Hollendorfer stretched her out and put her on the turf, where she ran third and was claimed by Peery. "She's a good-looking filly," Peery said. "When you go look at her, it's hard to come home without her."

Knockout Crown sat second early in an allowance race at Pleasanton, took command on the far turn, and won easily. She impressed jockey Russell Baze so much that he signed up for a return trip Sunday.

Aunt Sophie, who has won the Santa Clara Handicap at Bay Meadows and the Alameda County Fillies and Mares Handicap in her past two starts, appears to be the one to beat. She sits back and unleashes a strong late kick.