05/05/2004 12:00AM

Bub seeks to regain old form


AUBURN, Wash. - Bub, the champion 2-year-old here in 2002, will return after missing most of last year in Friday's six-furlong allowance feature at Emerald Downs.

Bub, who will face seven rivals, won 4 of 6 starts here as a 2-year-old, including three stakes. He finished fourth in his first start as a 3-year-old in last season's Auburn Stakes in May, but did not return until Sept. 21, when he ran 10th and last in the one-mile Trooper Seven Stakes.

Bub, a son of Slewdledo who races for Art McFadden, has been working every seven days for trainer Bud Klokstad and looks ready to produce a top try, but it is by no means certain that he is the same performer he was as a 2-year-old. One encouraging sign is that Juan Gutierrez has agreed to accept the mount.

Gutierrez had been the regular rider for Alfurune, who would appear to be Bub's sternest challenger Friday. Alfurune, a 6-year-old from the barn of trainer Diane Garrison, won last season's Independence Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and placed in five other stakes en route to amassing yearly earnings of more than $100,000. Like Bub, Alfurune will be making his seasonal debut after compiling an impressive string of regularly spaced workouts.

Expressionator registered back- to-back wins against allowance and stakes company on the Turf Paradise grass course in January and February, but ran poorly after breaking slowly in a pair of subsequent tries on dirt. He won twice on dirt in 2003 and may only need a better beginning to threaten.