08/23/2006 11:00PM

Edenwold faces a familiar foe in derby

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Edenwold, the Queen's Plate winner, is set to make his Western debut in the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby over 1 3/8 miles here at Northlands Park on Saturday. But there are no free passes for Edenwold, as a deep and competitive group of nine opponents has gathered to try and block his path to the winner's circle.

Foremost among these is a familiar rival, Shillelagh Slew. When the Quebec-bred Shillelagh Slew rebounded from a fifth-place finish in Woodbine's 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate to take Fort Erie's 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales on a disqualification, he denied Edenwold a shot at the Canadian Triple Crown and earned another notch in their ongoing rivalry.

The two first met in last year's Coronation Futurity at Woodbine, where Shillelagh Slew finished third and Edenwold, who was subsequently crowned Canada's male juvenile champion, ended fourth.

A win by either Edenwold or Shillelagh Slew here Saturday could be the tipping point in the vote for Canada's champion 3-year-old.

While Emile Ramsammy aboard Edenwold and Dino Luciani on Shillelagh Slew are sure to be keeping close tabs on each other, the Canadian Derby is hardly a two-horse affair.

Halo Steven will likely carry the banner as hometown favorite. A Florida-bred by Halo's Image, Halo Steven has won 5 of 9 starts and is riding a four-race winning streak in which he has treated the best 3-year-olds in Western Canada with disdain.

Most recently, Halo Steven wired the field here in the 1 1/16-mile Count Lathum, coming home 2 1/2 lengths on top while under wraps.

Other local hopefuls include Bear Character, third in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland this spring; Bell n'Gone, last year's provincial juvenile champion; and Tejano Trouble, a winner of three straight races.

Hit It Skip, a newcomer to the local scene, was claimed for $80,000 at Del Mar last time out and has won half of his eight starts this year.

Rounding out the field are Vancouver invaders Mighty Cahill, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Burnaby Breeders' Cup at Hastings; Rey Del Camino, runner-up here in the Count Lathum; and The Visualiser, a $1 million yearling purchase sired by Giant's Causeway.