04/16/2002 11:00PM

Klokstad has solid one-two punch


AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs will open its 2002 season on Friday with a nine-race card headed by the $25,000 Ropersandwranglers Stakes for older filly and mare sprinters.

Friday's program, which begins with the regular weekday first post time of 6 p.m., will be the first of 91 days of live racing at a meeting that will stretch through Sept. 16. First post for weekend cards will be 1 p.m., and the gates will open 30 minutes before the first simulcast race each day.

The six-furlong Ropersandwranglers, named for the Bud Klokstad-trained mare who won nine stakes at Emerald before being retired in 1999, has drawn a field of 10, including a stable coupling.

Fittingly, Klokstad will saddle both members of the stable coupling, Personal Decision and Neon Queen, and the duo may well be favored. Personal Decision, a 4-year-old daughter of Jazzing Around who races for the trainer's wife, Billie Klokstad, has not raced since winning 3 of 5 starts as a 2-year-old, including the six-furlong Piedmont Stakes at Golden Gate. Neon Queen, who was claimed last year as a 3-year-old by owners Bill Segale and David Taylor for $40,000, just missed winning the 1 1/16-mile Paragon Handicap here last summer.

"Personal Decision had surgery to remove a chip in her ankle at the end of her 2-year-old season, and I gave her all of last year off," said Klokstad. "She went six furlongs in 1:09 and change twice as a 2-year-old, and I have always liked horses who run fast. She has been training well, so I hope she is all the way back.

"Neon Queen is also going good now. She had a couple of problems last year so I gave her the winter off, and she seems to have come back really well."

Among the entry's top challengers are Latter Day Paula, who won last season's King County Handicap at one mile, and Rollette, a sprint stakes winner last year in northern California.

Also dangerous are Whatdidshesay and Sophisticated Slew, who figure to share the pacesetting duties, and Sweeping Respect, who is coming off an allowance win at Turf Paradise.

Emerald's seventh season of racing will be conducted on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis, with racing also scheduled for Memorial Day, May 27; Labor Day, Sept. 2; and Wednesday, July 3, when the track will stage its annual fireworks display.

Televised replays of each day's racing will air the following morning at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Network.

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