09/27/2006 11:00PM

Wild Cycle won't be 47-1 in Gottstein


AUBURN, Wash. - Wild Cycle is the probable favorite for Saturday's $100,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs, and that is quite a change from the role he played in the Sept. 2 WTBA Lads Stakes.

Wild Cycle was dismissed at 47-1 in the one-mile Lads, but he forged to the front under Juan Gutierrez at the furlong marker and staved off the determined late bid of stablemate Pirates Deputy to prevail by a neck in 1:37.

"I think the main reason he went off at 47-1 was that he had to break from the 12-hole," said trainer Aubrey Villyard. "It's tough to win from way out there at a mile unless you get real lucky, and he didn't really get lucky. He went wide around both turns and he still won. It looked to me like a real legitimate effort."

It looked that way to more objective observers as well, which is why Wild Cycle, a versatile son of Free at Last who races for owner Frank Gaunt, figures to have many more backers in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein. Villyard said nothing to discourage them.

"He's a nice horse, very laid back, and he has trained really well since the Lads," Villyard said. "And the way he finished in the Lads, I have to think the extra sixteenth will be no problem."

At the same time, Villyard said he thinks enough of Pirates Deputy's chances to pay a $10,000 supplemental fee to make him eligible to run in the Gottstein. Pirates Deputy, a son of Bertrando who races for Villyard's wife, Sue, and his exercise rider, Brennan Shapiro, came from far back to just miss catching Wild Cycle in the Lads.

"I thought he ran well enough to earn a shot at the Futurity," said Villyard. "He has acted like a good horse all along, and he certainly should like the extra distance."

Villyard, who operates a small stable, admitted to being a bit nervous about saddling two of the favorites in a $100,000 race.

"I'm not used to this, that's for sure," he said. "A lot of people have told me I have a really good shot at winning this race, but it is hard for me to imagine that a guy like me could win a race like this. I don't know what that would be like, but I'd like to find out."

Harwood's pair both contenders

Trainer Doris Harwood will also be taking two shots at Saturday's rich prize, and both seem live.

Liberty for Al, who ran second in the 6 1/2-furlong Strong Ruler Stakes as a maiden, is coming off the fastest six-furlong clocking for a 2-year-old at the meeting. He scorched the distance in 1:09.20 when he defeated maiden special weight company on Sept. 10. In his previous outing, however, he was a distant ninth to Wild Cycle in the Lads.

"The pace in that race was ridiculously fast, and he moved to join the leaders with five-eighths of a mile to go," Harwood noted. "I really don't think he had any chance after that. I didn't even find out if he can go long. I've always thought he could because he finishes so well in his sprints, but he still needs to prove it."

There is no question that Harwood's other entrant can go long. Key to the Vault, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, is a late-running type who defeated maiden special weight company going a mile in 1:37.60 on Sept. 8. Key to the Vault came from far back that day, and rider Mick Ruis almost waited too long before launching his move.

"Mick said he was waiting for the last-place horse to come to him, because he thought that would help to get Key to the Vault going," said Harwood. "Then he counted the horses in front of him, and he realized he was on the last-place horse."

Though Key to the Vault was still in last place at the quarter pole, he passed the rest of the field before reaching the furlong marker and drew out to score by 1 1/4 lengths.

Honour the West capable of upset

The sleeper in the Gottstein could be Honour the West, who pressed three-time stakes winner Immigration through a half-mile in 45.80 seconds before fading to finish fifth in the Lads. In his only previous start, Honour the West came from off the pace to defeat maiden special weight runners at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"I was a little concerned about running him against stakes company at a mile in the second start of his life, and the last thing I wanted was for him to be dueling with Immigration on the lead," said trainer Grant Forster. "It happened, though, and I guess the encouraging thing about it was that he ended up outfinishing Immigration. Immigration came back to win the Captain Condo Stakes, which showed he wasn't going off form, so that was quite an accomplishment."

Forster expects Honour the West to be fitter for the Gottstein, and much tougher.

"I think he is a very, very talented horse," said Forster. "I really felt he was capable of winning the Lads, but things didn't go his way. He still showed me a lot, though, and I think if he can relax a little better on Saturday he'll be hard to beat."