05/30/2006 12:00AM

DePaulo's Plate prospects hit bump in road

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Bad Hat, winning the Kingarvie at Woodbine last December, returned to training Monday but has been taken off the Queen's Plate trail.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A virus that has been sweeping through the Woodbine backstretch has put a serious crimp in the Queen's Plate plans of trainer Mike DePaulo.

Coming into the 2006 Woodbine meeting, DePaulo appeared to have a solid pair of candidates for the $1 million Queen's Plate. Shillelagh Slew, who had finished third here in last fall's Coronation Futurity, and Bad Hat, who was undefeated in three starts at 2. Both wintered with DePaulo in Florida and returned to Woodbine in fine fettle.

Shillelagh Slew was an impressive winner of his season debut in an entry-level allowance over seven furlongs here April 29, but now he is playing catch-up after losing four days of training because of the virus and is undergoing surgery for an entrapped epiglottis.

Bad Hat returned to training Monday after being sidelined for a week while coughing, and is off the Queen's Plate trail altogether.

Shillelagh Slew had been slated to have his final prep for the June 25 Queen's Plate in the 1 1/16-mile Marine, an open race for 3-year-olds here May 20, but was not entered after he started coughing earlier that week.

Although Shillelagh Slew is nominated to both Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial and the following Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park, DePaulo said he is seriously leaning toward training Shillelagh Slew up to the Plate.

"I think the Trial is too soon, and the Victoria Park is too close [to the Plate]," said DePaulo. "I don't have a lot of options."

Shillelagh Slew had his first workout in just over two weeks here last Sunday, going five furlongs in 1:02 under regular rider Dino Luciani.

"I wanted to see where we are," said DePaulo. "I thought he was excellent."

Bad Hat, a colt by Bold Executive, had done everything asked of him as a 2-year-old, winning his maiden at 5 1/2 furlongs, the Frost King at seven furlongs, and the Kingarvie at 1 1/16 miles. All three starts came in Ontario-sired company.

After finishing a wide fifth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in his season debut in the seven-furlong Queenston, Bad Hat had been slated to use the Plate Trial as his final Queen's Plate tune-up.

"He can't run a mile and an eighth right now," said Gerry Belanger, managing partner in the syndicate that owns Bad Hat. "Without that mile and an eighth, he just can't get [to the Plate].

"He needed an important work, but there's no way he can work for at least another week. It's just too close to this virus. We're just very fortunate he's a big and handsome guy. He's proud of himself and looking great.

"He's an Ontario-sired, Canadian-bred horse, and there are a whole bunch of races for him," he said. "He'll go back short again, and we'll see what happens."

Two Plate Trial nominees in allowance

Bridgecut and Seeking Shelter, both of whom were nominated to the Plate Trial, have been entered in a first-level allowance race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles here Friday.

Bridgecut and Seeking Shelter were stakes-placed as 2-year-olds and also were among the 18 nominees to the Victoria Park.

Rounding out Friday's field are Royal Challenger and Lahave, both of whom are Canadian-breds, and Successful Gent, a Florida-bred.

Royal Challenger, who won his maiden over seven furlongs here last time out, is nominated to the Victoria Park but was not kept eligible for the Queen's Plate.

The $125,000 Victoria Park, an open race for 3-year-olds, will be run on the same card as the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

The Woodbine Oaks is shaping up as a wide-open affair, with Seductively, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Selene here May 24, and Gumboots, coming off a score in the seven-furlong Fury here May 7, among the leading candidates.

The field for the Woodbine Oaks will be announced at a special draw here Thursday, June 8, beginning at noon in the trackside tent.

Jayna Hefford, a member of Canada's 2006 Olympic Gold medal-winning women's hockey team, will be the ceremonial drawmaster.

* Next week's stakes action also includes the $125,000 Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies on Wednesday evening, and the $125,000 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward on Saturday.