07/29/2004 11:00PM

New stallion could shine in Knights Choice

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AUBURN, Wash. - Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Knights Choice Stakes for 2-year-old fillies is part of the Northwest Stallion Series, which means it is restricted to the daughters of stallions who were nominated in the year of their conception.

That cuts out the two most impressive juvenile fillies on the grounds - Angie C. Stakes winner Charming Colleen and maiden special weight winner A Classic Life, who are both by Kentucky stallions - but it opens the door wide to a host of promising prospects by local sires.

Last year the Knights Choice served as a coming-out party for the freshman sire Baquero, whose daughter Americas Pride became his first stakes winner, and that scenario could be repeated on Sunday. First-year sire Matricule will be represented by Cherry Bank, who won her debut by a neck here on July 4 after battling for the lead throughout the race. She covered the five furlongs in 58.20 seconds.

Matricule, a son of A.P. Indy who stands at Bob and Barbara Meeking's Allaire Farm in Poulsbo, Wash., got off to a flying start at stud when his first three foals to start all won. My Buddy won at the maiden special weight level, Fuzzyheadedlizard defeated $40,000 maidens, and Cherry Bank beat maiden special weight fillies. Bob Meeking, who trains Cherry Bank for Allaire Farm and Dave Bowman, hopes she will add further luster to her sire's reputation on Sunday.

"I think she's certainly capable," Meeking said. "She came back from her first race really well and now she thinks she is hell on wheels, so at least she'll go into the race feeling confident. I do think this race is too far for 80 percent of the 2-year-old fillies on the grounds. They break their maidens at five furlongs and they don't usually have a chance to run again before this race, so it is asking a lot.

"My filly is pretty fit, though. I worked her six furlongs after she won and came back with a five-furlong work, so she's better off than most."

Meeking trained Cherry Bank's dam, Dominance, as well as her granddam, Nan's Turn to Star, plus almost all of the foals of both mares.

"Everybody from that family is pretty high strung, but I think Matricule must have given Cherry Bank a dose of good sense," he said. "She was easy to break and she is easy to train. She is really very professional. I hope Matricule gave her a dose of stamina as well, because most of her family hasn't wanted to go beyond 6 1/2 furlongs."

Rarity for Ross

Trainer Sharon Ross has won 29 stakes at Emerald, second only to Bud Klokstad's 39 victories, but only one of those wins was achieved by a juvenile. That was Inclinator's victory in the 1988 Strong Ruler Stakes.

She will try for a second with No Fences, a Free at Last filly who may be favored in the Knights Choice.

"We don't start very many babies," Ross said. "We put them into training in November and train them straight through, but we won't start them until their knees are closed, and we back off at the first sign of a problem. When we do get a 2-year-old to the races, you know they are very sound and very fit."

That describes No Fences. No Fences ran ninth behind Cherry Bank in her debut, but she came back on July 17 to defeat $40,000 maidens by more than four lengths in 1:04.40 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

"We really thought she would be right there in her first race, but she got creamed coming out of the gate and it turned out to be a learning experience," said Ross. "She ran like we thought she could last time."

No Fences comes by her precocity honestly, as her dam, Knights Kaffer, won the 1997 Knights Choice in her career debut. Owner Gerry Schneider, who campaigns No Fences under the banner of Riverbend Stable, remembered that fact when he purchased the filly as a yearling at last summer's WTBA sale for $17,000.

"Gerry knows the family well, because he owned Knights Kaffer's dam, Sendosha, at one time and I trained her for him," said Ross. "She was a fat little thing and couldn't run much, but she turned out to be a terrific broodmare for Len Kasmerski and Ron Hersh."

Sendosha produced eight winners from nine foals to race, including three stakes winners. Both of Knights Kaffer's foals to race have won, and No Fences will be the first to try stakes company.

"We think she is a real nice filly, and there is no question she is ready to go 6 1/2 furlongs," said Ross. "I'm looking forward to running her on Sunday."

Odds on 'Arabella' may be shorter

Another who should attract attention in the Knights Choice is Nu Rays Arabella, and that will be a change. Though she was sent off as the 5-2 second choice when she won her debut against $25,000 maidens on May 30, she was dismissed at 11-1 when she came back to finish a close fourth against male allowance rivals on June 27. She was then ignored at 14-1 when she finished third to Charming Colleen in the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes on July 11. Trainer Rick Terry wasn't surprised.

"She is kind of a hard filly to notice," he said. "She is so unassuming around the barn that you wouldn't even know she was there, but she runs hard every time. I was just getting a race into her when I ran her against the boys, but she hung right in there with them. Then she raced awfully wide in the stakes last time, so I'm thinking she can probably improve off that effort. Maybe she'll make everybody notice her this time."