06/19/2002 11:00PM

Can 'Dixie' do it again at a mile?


AUBURN, Wash. - Always a Dixie will be out to show that her surprising victory in last month's Washington State Legislators Stakes was no fluke when she takes on 10 other older fillies and mares in Saturday's one-mile, $40,000 King County Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Always a Dixie was sent off at 25-1 in last month's stakes, which was contested at 6 1/2 furlongs, but she closed strongly through traffic to edge the favored Neon Queen by a nose in 1:15.20. It was the first stakes win for the 5-year-old Always a Dixie, from the barn of Hastings Park trainer Barbara Heads, but it was the fourth victory from nine career starts overall.

One of her prior wins came in a 1 1/16-mile allowance last year at Hastings, so Saturday's added distance should not prove an obstacle.

Neon Queen is also proven around two turns. She came within a neck of winning the 1 1/16-mile Paragon Handicap here last year. Neon Queen, trained by Bud Klokstad, scored an authoritative 1 1/2-length victory in the 6 1/2- furlong Hastings Park Handicap before dropping the close decision to Always a Dixie last month.

Always a Dixie and Neon Queen may yield the favorite's role to Grey Tobe Free, who closed strongly from far back to finish third under Chris Loseth in the Washington State Legislators. It was the first start of the year for Grey Tobe Free, a route specialist whose most noteworthy accomplishment last year was a resounding eight-length win in the nine- furlong Ballerina Handicap at Hastings Park.