06/17/2004 11:00PM

McCanna holding two aces


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Tim McCanna will play a strong hand when he sends out Willie the Cat and Poker Brad to meet six others in Sunday's one mile, $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Willie the Cat, a 5-year-old who races for Ron Crockett, will carry high weight of 121 pounds, including rider Gallyn Mitchell, on the strength of his perfect record in six starts at Emerald. The streak includes three wins at the current meet, with his most recent score coming in the 6 1/2- furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap on May 23. Willie the Cat, who has brilliant speed, is expected to show the way in his first attempt around two turns.

Poker Brad, who will carry 119 pounds, last year won the nine-furlong Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap and finished second to Sky Jack in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile. The 6-year-old Poker Brad, who races for Quadrun Stable, has raced twice this year, running second in the April 10 Portland Meadows Mile and then tuning up for Sunday's engagement with a sharp win over allowance company going a mile on May 30. Ricky Frazier, the regular rider for both Willie the Cat and Poker Brad, has elected to rider Poker Brad.

McCanna's horses will race uncoupled in the wagering because of separate ownership.

The field also includes Slewicide Cruise and Demon Warlock, who finished a nose apart and a length behind Willie the Cat in the Fox Sports Net. Also in the lineup is Briartic Gold, who finished a length behind Poker Brad in the May 30 allowance mile, which was run in a sparkling 1:33.80.

Rounding out the field are Bub, Hastings invader Ezra, and Alfurune, a surprise entrant who scratched out of a mile allowance race on Saturday in order to compete.

Bub, a 4-year-old son of Slewdledo from the barn of trainer Bud Klokstad, will be trying to recapture the form that saw him win 4 of his first 5 starts here as a 2-year-old, a string that included three stakes victories.

Bub missed almost all of his 3-year-old campaign with a life-threatening illness but has come back to post two solid sprint preps at the current meet. He ran second to Knightsbridge Road in a six-furlong allowance on May 7, then finished fourth to Willie the Cat in the Fox Sports Net.