04/04/2002 12:00AM

Two mares in stakes hunt

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Sunday's $100,000 Miss America Handicap at Bay Meadows could prove to be the perfect stepping-stone for a pair of talented mares based in Southern California.

Crazy Ensign, a graded winner in South America, and Impeachable are seeking their first American stakes victories in the one-mile race over the Longden Turf Course.

Crazy Ensign, a 6-year-old mare with three Grade 1 wins in her native Argentina, has had health problems since arriving in Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella's barn.

"She had an operation for a chip in an ankle," Mandella's assistant Becky Witzman said, explaining an 11-month break between her final start in Argentina and U.S. debut in the Wilshire Handicap, a Grade 3, last April 29.

Crazy Ensign was fifth behind Tranquility Lake in the Wilshire but won an allowance race on May 18 in her next start. She didn't run again until Feb. 3, when she was third in an allowance race down Santa Anita's hillside turf course.

"She had a problem with her pelvis and needed time," Witzman said, explaining the second layoff.

The sprint was a prep, and the third-place finish was a good one in Witzman's eyes.

"Sprinting's not really her game," she said.

Impeachable set the pace at Golden Gate Fields when she finished second to Janet in the Grade 3 Brown Bess Handicap of Feb. 2. She returned to Santa Anita to win an allowance race before running eighth in the Santa Ana Handicap, a Grade 2.

"She ran against four of the best fillies in the United States," her trainer, Scott Hansen, said of the Santa Ana effort. "She'll run better than last time. She never got untracked."

Early post on Saturday

Saturday's Bay Meadows card will have a first post at 12:30 p.m. instead of the normal 12:45. Free wallets will be given away.

In Saturday's feature, King of the Mountain, who graduated in his turf debut at Santa Anita, will try for a repeat as 10 older horses run 1 1/16 miles in an allowance race on the Longden Turf Course. King of the Mountain is one of six who comes into the race off a victory.

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