05/01/2003 11:00PM

Repeat tough task for 'Neon'


AUBURN, Wash. - Defending champion Neon Queen will attempt to repeat in Sunday's Hastings Park Handicap, but it won't be easy.

Though she won last year's renewal in a highly creditable 1:15.60 for 6 1/2 furlongs, Neon Queen figures to be no better than the fourth choice in a field of seven in Sunday's Hastings Park, for older fillies and mares.

Neon Queen, a 5-year-old daughter of Petersburg trained by Bud Klokstad, enjoyed a successful campaign last winter at Golden Gate, where she won an optional $50,000 claiming race at a mile on turf.

In her first start at this meeting, she finished third, beaten more than four lengths by Whatdidshesay in a six-furlong allowance race.

The favorite in the Hastings Park will be Ema Bovary, a Chilean import who defeated the formidable Lacie Girl in her last start on March 23 in Golden Gate's six-furlong Soviet Problem Handicap. Ema Bovary won that race by a nose over the favored Lacie Girl in 1:08.80. Roberto Gonzalez, who was up that day, rides Sunday for trainer Sharon Ross.

Whatdidshesay is back in the Hastings Park and figures to be one of the favorites off her impressive allowance win, which was accomplished in a rapid 1:08.60. It was the sixth score from 17 starts for the

5-year-old Whatdidshesay, who appears to be improving with age.

Strikes No Spares also figures to be well-bet in her return to Emerald Downs, where she scored her maiden win and finished second in the Angie C. Stakes in two starts as a 2-year-old in 2001.