10/29/2002 1:00AM

Geardown, Neon Queen fresh for hot barn

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - If ESPN's Sportscenter covered Thoroughbred racing at Bay Meadows, they would say trainer Bud Klokstad was "en fuego."

Klokstad has indeed been "on fire" this meet, having won with 11 of his first 26 starters since arriving in September following the conclusion of the Emerald Downs meet. He has won with more than 42 percent of his starters, and more than 57 percent of his starters have hit the board.

Klokstad sends out two more more Thursday, stakes winner Neon Queen in the feature race, a six-furlong, $40,000 optional claimer, and Geardown in a 5 1/2-furlong, $40,000 starter allowance.

Klokstad brought 25 horses with him from Washington, and, as a word of warning, advises, "My good ones haven't run yet."

Klokstad takes his success in stride. He enjoys his frequent trips to the winner's circle, but cautions, "It will catch up."

There is no magic formula to explain Klokstad's success. The horses he has run this year have been placed properly.

"I think that's it," he said. "I have horses that fit for a change.

"I know what kind of races they usually run. This year I came down with horses that fit better in this program."

Klokstad knows that any horse can get beat. He also knows that where a trainer places a horse is just as important as the training the horse receives.

"That is the deal," he said. "No matter how good you train them, if they're not in the right spot, they won't win. It just happens the races down here have come up that way."

There is a little method involved in placing a horse, though.

"Hey, I've been around 50 years," Klokstad said. "I know how to read a condition book."

Although racing moves to Golden Gate Fields next week, Klokstad will keep his horses stabled at Bay Meadows.

"I don't think it makes a big difference," he said. "I'll stay here and be shipping horses over. I've never had trouble before."

Neon Queen hasn't run since finishing second in an allowance race on Aug. 10, and Geardown hasn't raced since he was second in a $50,000 claimer on Sept. 15. Earlier this year, Neon Queen won the Hastings Park Handicap at Emerald Downs and finished second to Always a Dixie in the Washington State Legislature and King County handicaps.

"They've been off a long time," he said, downplaying his horses' chances a touch. "It may be a little tough, but I need to get a race into them. They could be placed in better spots, but they have to run."

And when a trainer is "en fuego," sometimes any spot can be a good one.

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