05/01/2008 11:00PM

Hopes high as Wild Cycle starts year

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AUBURN, Wash. - By any measure, Wild Cycle had a productive campaign at Emerald Downs last season. He won the Tacoma Handicap, placed in three other stakes, and ran fourth in the Emerald Derby in five starts as a

3-year-old.

It's just that he might have done so much better were it not for a freak accident shortly before last year's meeting began. Rolling in his stall, Wild Cycle managed to strike a front leg with a hind hoof and sever an artery. His life was briefly in danger, and his campaign was put on hold.

"We lost about two months with him because of that deal, and he was basically playing catch-up for the rest of the season," said trainer Aubrey Villyard. "He still had a pretty good year, but I have to think he could have done more if everything had gone smoothly."

This year, everything has gone smoothly for Wild Cycle, a son of Free at Last who races for owner Frank Gaunt. He hasn't missed a beat since the track opened for training in early February, and he has worked every six to eight days since March 16. Villyard hopes to see the fruits of his steady regimen on Sunday, when Wild Cycle runs in a talented field of older sprinters in the $50,000 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs.

"He's ready, there is no question about that," said the trainer. "I do think he wants a little more ground, but I don't really know. The only time he was supposed to run six furlongs was in the Emerald Express as a

2-year-old, and he stumbled at the start and lost the rider. Both of his stakes wins were at a mile, so there is a good chance this race is too short for him.

Villyard originally intended to start two horses in the Seattle, and indeed he still will. It's just that his second starter will be the 7-year-old Random Memo, not the 4-year-old Pirates Deputy as originally intended.

"I was going to run Pirates Deputy in this one, but I decided to wait until the 6 1/2-furlong stakes to get him started," said Villyard, referring to the Pepsi Cola Handicap on Juneo3. "He is coming off some bad races in California, and I want to make darn sure he is ready before I run him. The last thing he needs is to run another bad race."

Villyard said his initial plan was to run Random Memo for a high claiming price, but the horse has been training so smartly that he was afraid to enter him in a $40,000 race that was run here last Saturday.

"I just think he is worth more than $40,000 right now," Villyard said. "He hasn't trained this well since he was a 2-year-old, so I want to give him a chance to show he is still a stakes horse. If he gets badly outrun, there will be plenty of time to drop him down in class."

Garbu's Tab brings lightning speed

The newcomer in the Seattle Handicap field is Garbu's Tab, who was claimed by Ron Whited's K J Star Stable for $25,000 at Sunland Park on March 15. Trainer Charlie Essex said he enlisted the help of former Emerald Downs trainer Bobby McMeans, the son of trainer Bill McMeans, to execute the claim.

"I flew down there to look at him and I liked what I saw, so I told Bobby to drop the claim," said Essex. "We left him down there with Bobby for one more race, and he ran a good second against allowance company on April 5."

Essex said he is still getting to know Garbu's Tab, who shipped here shortly after his final start at Sunland, but he has been impressed with him so far.

"He is a big, good-looking horse, and he is definitely fast," said Essex. "It's hard to say how he fits with the stakes horses up here, but I guess we'll find out on Sunday."

Essex wasn't kidding about Garbu's Tab, a 5-year-old son of Garbu, being fast. In three straight starts at Sunland, Garbu's Tab led through half-mile fractions of 42.40, 43.40, and 43.60 seconds. He once posted a quarter-mile fraction of 20.80.

Jockey Silva begins Emerald stay

Jockey Carlos Silva was scheduled to make his Emerald Downs debut on Saturday aboard two horses trained by Len Kasmerski.

Silva, a 23-year-old native of Mexico City, won 150 races in his home country before shifting his tack to Hastings Park, where he was the third-leading rider with 85 wins in 2005. He rode at the Bay Area tracks in 2006 and 2007, and rode most recently at Sunland Park, where he had his last ride on April 22. In North America, Silva has ridden 218 Thoroughbred winners from 1,605 mounts for $3,756,954 in purse earnings. He will be represented by his cousin, Ramon Silva.