05/24/2006 12:00AM

'Badger K.' looks fresh and fit


AUBURN, Wash. - Badger K. Eli returns to Emerald Downs on Friday when he heads a field of eight older $20,000 claimers in the 6 1/2-furlong feature.

Badger K. Eli, a 4-year-old son of Game Plan from the barn of trainer Len Kasmerski, won 7 of 27 starts over this track before venturing to northern California for a three-race campaign last winter. Badger K. Eli won a five-furlong turf race at Golden Gate, ran second in a $20,000 claiming race going six furlongs on dirt at Bay Meadows, and finished third in a mile turf race at Bay Meadows before being turned out in February. He has worked especially well for his return, posting a pair of bullet drills from five works.

Road Afleet might pose the sternest challenge to Badger K. Eli, providing he breaks from the gate alertly. Road Afleet reared at the start to get away far behind his field when making his seasonal debut in a 5 1/2-furlong race for $20,000 claimers on April 22, then went evenly to finish fifth of six. He won going a mile on the $25,000 optional claiming level here last year, and has won 2 of 10 6 1/2-furlong races during a stellar career that has seen him earn $213,255.

Also a threat is Prize Weaver, who pressed the pace to finish fourth in the same race that Road Afleet exits. Prize Weaver had a frustrating meet here last year, going 0 for 8, but he was among the top sprinters on the grounds in 2004.