09/11/2006 11:00PM

Two have given fans a ride


AUBURN, Wash. - A case could be made that Westsideclyde and See Ya Later Slew are the two most exciting horses on the grounds at Emerald Downs, if only because neither horse has fixed a limit to his ability.

Westsideclyde, a 4-year-old son of Old Topper trained by Craig Roberts, was in action last Saturday when he thumped three overmatched challengers in a $32,000 optional claiming affair with a mile in 1:35. That win, which was accomplished on cruise control, was the fifth from six starts at the meeting for Westsideclyde, who is now tied with Magoo Can Do for most wins at the meet.

Westsideclyde raced twice against maiden special weight company as a 2-year-old, but he missed all of last year with a ligament injury. Returning to action against modest $10,000 maiden claimers in May, Westsideclyde cruised to a 2 1/2-length victory in 1:09.80.

"We knew we were taking a big edge, but we thought we could get away with it because he was coming off an injury," said Roberts' assistant, Martin Pimentel. "We were glad he wasn't claimed."

Westsideclyde came back with an easy score over $17,500 rivals in June before suffering his lone loss of the year on July 1, when he tired to finish fifth against $25,000 optional claiming company after showing the way through a half-mile in 44.20 seconds.

"He broke slowly that day, then he rushed up and dueled through some very fast fractions," noted Pimentel. "We knew he could run a lot better than that."

Westsideclyde proved as much by dusting optional claiming company in his next two starts with six furlongs in 1:08 and 1:08.20, good for Beyer Speed Figures of 96 and 99. Off those two efforts, Roberts considered testing Westsideclyde for class in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, but owner James Riedinger felt it was too tough a spot for his gelding's first try around two turns. His route test was delayed until Saturday, when he drew off to score by 5 1/2 lengths after going unchallenged on the lead.

"It was a very easy race for him, and he came out of it well," said Pimentel. "He wasn't even tired."

So how good is Westsideclyde? Fans may have to wait until next year to find out. There are no more stakes for the California-bred Westsideclyde at the current stand, so if he goes again it will likely be in a $10,000 or a $15,000 starter handicap race on closing day, Oct. 1. Neither of those races would be likely to test his ability.

See Ya Later Slew, a 3-year-old son of Albert the Great from the barn of trainer Kathy Schenk, has raced only twice at the meeting. He defeated maiden optional claimers by 4 1/2 lengths at 6 1/2 furlongs, then drubbed allowance rivals at a mile by three lengths. Both wins were achieved in fast times, 1:16 and 1:35.80, but what was more impressive was that he, like Westsideclyde, never seemed to get out of second gear.

"He definitely hasn't shown all that he can do yet," said Schenk. "He is a pretty exciting horse. He makes it fun to come to the barn every morning."

Schenk said See Ya Later Slew will likely go to Phoenix after this meeting is over, and from that base he will be able to race at either Turf Paradise or at Sunland Park in New Mexico. Before he goes, See Ya Later Slew might race once more at this track. Schenk noted that there is an optional $50,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up who have not won $22,000 since April 21 in the condition book for Sept. 30.

"It's at 1 1/16 miles, which should suit him," she said. "He'll have to meet older horses, but he'll be an older horse himself in three more months. It might be a good test for him."

Come to think of it, Westsideclyde would also be eligible for that race. It might be a good test for him as well.

Lucarelli surges to lead

Trainer Frank Lucarelli saddled five winners last week to sweep into first place in the trainer standings with 38 wins through 79 days of racing. Jim Penney, who has led the race for most of the season, is second with 35 wins and Howard Belvoir has 33 wins, two more than defending champion Tim McCanna.

Lucarelli, who topped the standings in 1999 and again in 2004, seemed to have scant chance at the training title through 40 days of racing on July 4, when he ranked sixth in the standings with 12 wins from 120 starters. Since then he has scored with 26 of 127 starters.

"There are probably a lot of things that contributed to the turnaround, but the main one was just finding the right level for my horses," said Lucarelli. "I think that initially I misevaluated a lot of my horses and I had them running too high. When I finally got them down where they belong, they started winning."

Lucarelli feels he is in a good position to end the meeting with a strong run.

"The key to finishing the meeting well is have a lot of horses who are still sound, and I'm not running out of horses," he said. "I've got a lot of them to run, but I need to find the right spots for them. If I can do that, I'll have a good shot at the training title, but you could probably say that about the top four or five guys. It could get to be a real interesting race."