06/12/2008 11:00PM

Westsideclyde takes new shot at Mile

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AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Craig Roberts was keen to run Westsideclyde in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile for the past couple of seasons, but it didn't happen.

Two years ago it was a case of owner James Riedinger feeling that such a tough assignment was premature for the then 4-year-old Westsideclyde, who had not yet run in a stakes. Last year, Westsideclyde ranked as the leading local contender for the Mile after winning both the FSN Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs and the Budweiser-Emerald Handicap at a mile, but his campaign was ended by a knee chip.

Now 6, Westsideclyde, who has always been plagued by physical problems, might be making his last, or at least his best, run at the Mile. He took his first stride toward that goal when he ran an extremely game second while making his seasonal debut in the FSN on May 26. Step No. 2 will come in Sunday's Budweiser-Emerald.

"This race will let us know where we are with him, and whether it is realistic to keep pointing him toward the Mile," Roberts said. "It will be a big test for him."

Should he fail to produce his best effort, Westsideclyde has a couple of ready-made excuses. One is that he was still playing catch-up with the rest of the handicap division in just his second start of the year. The other is that he bounced, or regressed, off the extremely taxing effort in his comeback race. Roberts hopes he won't need those excuses, and, in any case, he won't be inclined to use them.

"I feel he's solid," the trainer said. "He's as ready as I can get him to go a mile. As for him bouncing, I don't think that will happen because he came back to work so strongly. He went five furlongs in 1:00.80 last Sunday under my exercise rider, Francisco Romero. He just did everything very nicely."

There are two more stops on the road to the Longacres Mile after the Budweiser-Emerald. The 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap and the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap have been run on the same day, Mile Preview Day, in recent years. This year, they are separated by three weeks, with the Governor's slated for July 6 and the Mt. Rainier scheduled for July 27. Mile hopefuls can run in both preps, but Roberts said Westsideclyde probably won't do that.

"I'm not a big fan of going back and forth in distance," Roberts said. "Once we go a mile this Sunday, I'm reluctant to shorten him back up to 6 1/2. I'm thinking of skipping the Governor's and training him up to the Mt. Rainier, then going into the Mile from there. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. First we've got to get him through the Budweiser-Emerald. That's the race we're pointing for now."

Belvoir confident in Budweiser-Emerald pair

Westsideclyde's most formidable rival in the Budweiser-Emerald would seem to be Wasserman, who got up in the last stride to catch Westsideclyde in the FSN. The 6-year-old Wasserman, who races for trainer Howard Belvoir, also won last year's Governor's before running third in the Longacres Mile. He produces his stretch run just about every time he races, and Belvoir expects him to show up again Sunday. Even so, the trainer feels his other entrant in the Budweiser-Emerald, Assessment, might have an equally good chance of winning.

"Wasserman is more proven at this point, but Assessment is a nice horse," the trainer said. "He is 3 for 3 at Emerald Downs, he has a nice, versatile style, and I think a mile will be a good distance for him. You really shouldn't overlook him."

Assessment, a 4-year-old son of Jump Start who races for Tice Ranch, beat Emerald Derby winner Mulcahy in an allowance race last year, and he defeated derby runner-up Jamaica Bound in his maiden win. He has raced only once at the current meeting, defeating Lord Avalon by a length in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race May 31 that was run in 1:14.80. Assessment will be making his two-turn debut Sunday.

Mr. Makah sidelined with injury

Trainer Bonnie Jenne reported that multiple stakes winner Mr. Makah, who had been pointed toward the Budweiser-Emerald, will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering a slight injury in a workout last Sunday.

"I don't think it is anything too serious, but I'm going to be cautious and back off his training for a while," Jenne said. "I'm hoping to get him back at this meeting, but we'll see. This is a setback, but he has made a lot of comebacks."

Mr. Makah, who is now 8, won the Budweiser-Emerald and the Muckleshoot Classic here in 2005. He raced only once in 2006 and only three times last year. He finished second to allowance rivals in both starts at this stand and appeared to be returning to his best form.

* Rider Javier Matias suffered a hairline fracture of his tibia in a training accident Wednesday morning, according to agent Larry Pierce. Pierce said Matias could be out of action for as long as six weeks.