04/26/2007 11:00PM

Two from 2006 could be players in top ranks


AUBURN, Wash. - One of the more interesting aspects of the early part of this year's Emerald Downs meeting will be to see how Westsideclyde and See Ya Later Slew, two of the most exciting runners to emerge at last year's stand, will stack up against the best in the local handicap division.

In the case of Westsideclyde, at least, we probably won't have to wait long.

"It looks as though we might have to start him off in the Seattle Handicap on May 6," said trainer Craig Roberts. "I would have preferred to get him in an allowance race, but he wasn't ready to run in the opening-night feature and I don't see anything else for him in the condition book."

Roberts did a superb job of managing Westsideclyde's campaign last year. Though he began the meeting as a 4-year-old maiden and made his first start at the $10,000 level, Westsideclyde won 5 of 7 starts, including three allowance races, while scoring as high as 99 on the Beyer scale.

"My only regret is that we didn't run him in the Longacres Mile," said Roberts. "He was right at the top of his game at that time, but the owner, Dr. [James] Riedinger, thought it would be asking too much of him. Instead we waited for a starter handicap race on closing day. He got assigned 125 pounds in that race, and he got caught in the last jump."

Roberts also trains the 4-year-old Exclusive Eagle, who won last year's Seattle Slew Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

"He is still eligible for the 'nonwinners of two races other than' condition, so it makes sense for us to take advantage of that," he said. "Both of these horses are training very well, though, and I'm looking forward to running them. Westsideclyde worked a half-mile in 45.40 on opening day, and he galloped out five furlongs in 57 and change. He is very close to being ready."

See Ya Later Slew not quite ready

See Ya Later Slew may take longer to make his seasonal debut, but he should be worth waiting for. See Ya Later Slew, a 4-year-old son of Albert the Great from the barn of trainer Kathy Schenk, won all three of his starts here last season, including a pair of allowance races. He made his stakes debut in the last start of his 3-year-old campaign, finishing fourth in the six-furlong Saguaro Stakes at Turf Paradise.

The Saguaro may have been the toughest $40,000 stakes in the country last year. It was won by Sailors Sunset, who came back to win the Grade 2 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in his next start. Second was Smokey Stover, currently ranked as the nation's top sprinter after winning four in a row, including a pair of graded stakes. And third was Trail This, who has won 4 of 6 tries, including two stakes, since finishing three lengths ahead of See Ya Later Slew in the Saguaro. All of the top three finishers in the Saguaro have since scored triple-digit Beyers, and Smokey Stover has won with Beyers of 104, 113, 105, and 111.

"We might have found an easier spot for him," conceded Schenk. "He really ran very well that day, though, and he beat six horses."

See Ya Later Slew was turned out after the Nov. 4 Saguaro, but he resumed working in mid-February.

"He is up to five furlongs now and he is doing very well, but we're not to the point where we are looking for a race for him," said Schenk. "The owner really wants to run him at a mile, but it might be a long time before they can fill a mile race for him. I'm thinking 6 1/2 furlongs might be a good compromise. Meanwhile, it is a lot of fun having a horse like him in my barn. He makes it easy to come to the barn in the morning."

Stall accident sets back Wild Cycle

Trainer Aubrey Villyard was counting on a full season of work from Wild Cycle, who won last year's WTBA Lads Stakes and finished second in the Gottstein Futurity. Now it looks as though he'll have to settle for somewhat less than that.

Villyard reported that Wild Cycle, a 3-year-old son of Free at Last, suffered an accident in his stall about a week before the meeting began.

"He was rolling in his stall, and he apparently struck his leg right above the coronet with a hoof and severed an artery," said the trainer. "There was blood everywhere, and if my exercise rider hadn't been walking by his stall he might have bled to death."

Villyard said he immediately called Dr. Elliott Simpkins, who worked for most of the morning to stop the flow of blood and patch the horse up to the extent that he could be taken to the nearby equine hospital for sutures. With all that, the patient seems to be recovering well.

"I put him on the walker twice a day, and he is full of himself," said Villyard. "We figure he'll be able to resume training in two weeks, and it shouldn't take long for him to recover the fitness he lost. We'll miss the first stakes and it will be touch and go to make the second stakes, but it could have been worse. When I think of all the blood in his stall, I'm just thankful we got him back at all."

* Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has signed legislation that will allow Sun Downs in Kennewick to take simulcast wagering on the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The law will also permit wagering at Waitsburg on the May 19 Preakness.