05/22/2008 11:00PM

Westsideclyde set for another comeback try


AUBURN, Wash. - Westsideclyde logged his final prep for Monday's $50,000 FSN Handicap late in the morning on Thursday, going an easy half-mile under rider Gary Baze. Westsideclyde, who will be making his 6-year-old debut in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN, started slowly and gradually gained momentum, finishing out strong without being asked for the least bit of speed.

Nevertheless, Westsideclyde was clocked in 48.80, the fastest of 15 half-mile works on Thursday's tab. When informed of that clocking, trainer Craig Roberts displayed a droll sense of humor.

"Maybe I've got a good horse on my hands," he said.

Westsideclyde proved he was a good horse in 2006, when he came off a tendon injury and a layoff of nearly two years to win 5 of 7 starts. He came back last year to run second in the Seattle Handicap and win both the FSN and the Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile before being sidelined with a knee chip. The chip was removed last summer, and Westsideclyde began training for another comeback in February.

"Everything has gone pretty smoothly," said Roberts. "We missed one work because of the weather, but I think I've got a pretty good foundation under him. He really hasn't taken a bad step all year, and I don't see any difference in him this year. He is the same as he has always been."

That's good news, because Westsideclyde was regarded as the best of his division last season before he was hurt. Can he regain the top spot on Monday?

"That's a tough assignment," said Roberts. "I think he'll be very competitive, but you are always at a disadvantage when you don't have a prep race and the others do. I'm not the kind of trainer who likes to work them real fast, so I'm just relying on his foundation. Also, he might just be better than the others. Anyway I think he fits with these. These are his people."

Pirate Deputy back for Villyard

Another who will be returning to action on Monday is Pirates Deputy, though it is uncertain whether he will be coming back in the FSN or in an allowance race "I'd prefer to bring him back in the allowance, but there is a good chance that race won't fill," said trainer Aubrey Villyard. "If that's the case, he'll go in the stakes."

Pirates Deputy, a 4-year-old son of Bertrando, won the Gottstein Futurity racing here for Villyard as a juvenile, but soon after that race he was sold privately to clients of Southern California trainer Bob Baffert. He did right by his new connections, running second in the $125,000 Cal Cup Juvenile and the $1 million Delta Jackpot before winning the $141,000 California Breeders' Championship to close out his 2-year-old campaign.

Pirates Deputy seemed to go sour as a 3-year-old, however, failing to finish in the money in six starts. Villyard was able to buy him back late last year for a fraction of his original sale price, and he has spent much of his time since then trying to reignite the horse's interest in racing. He feels he has succeeded.

"Just giving him the winter off probably helped the most," said Villyard. "He was awfully body-sore when we got him back from California, but he was fine by the time we put him back into training, and he has worked well. He always did like this racetrack, and I'm hoping he will be able to return to his best form. He'll need more ground to do that, but 6 1/2 furlongs at least gives him a shot."

Villyard will also saddle Wild Cycle for the FSN, and he is hoping to see strong improvement from that 4-year-old. Wild Cycle won stakes here at 2 and 3, but he finished a distant seventh this meet in his 4-year-old debut, the six-furlong Seattle Handicap at six furlongs.

"He broke slowly, and things went downhill from there," said Villyard. "I knew six furlongs was too short for him, but I was disappointed that he didn't finish better. He has continued to work really well, and I'm looking for him to run a lot better this time."

Flamethrowintexan coming along

Trainer Jim Penney reported that Flamethrowintexan, the winner of the 2006 Grade 3 Longacres Mile, continues to make progress along the comeback trail. The 7-year-old Flamethrowintexan was turned out after just two subpar efforts last year, but he was returned to training earlier this year and he has logged three official workouts. In his most recent drill here last Saturday, Flamethrowintexan worked a half-mile in 48 seconds, the ninth-fastest of 44 works at the distance.

"It was a nice, handy work, and he did it well within himself," said Penney. "He's training very kindly. It will be a while before he runs, though. We're not aiming for any particular race. He runs hard when he races, so we want to have him good and fit before we send him out there. When he finally does run, he'll have a lot of breezes into him."