05/18/2007 11:00PM

Four Canadian champs battle in Eclipse


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – True Metropolitan, last year’s champion older male and the runner-up for Canadian Horse of the Year, has shipped from Vancouver to Woodbine for Monday’s $150,000 Eclipse Stakes.

The Grade 3 race, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack, has drawn an all-star cast that includes three other Canadian champions – Shillelagh Slew, Palladio, and Judiths Wild Rush.

True Metropolitan won 7 of 12 starts last year at four different tracks, in three different provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. After an extensive campaign in Western Canada, he trounced the locals in the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup Stakes in November.

True Metropolitan set the pace before fading to third in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Handicap at Woodbine Dec. 10. Trainer Terry Jordan said True Metropolitan was too sharp in the Valedictory.

“I don’t believe it was too far,” Jordan said. “I think he’ll run all day. He was a little bit too eager. We didn’t do enough with him leading up to the race.”

True Metropolitan won his season opener convincingly, in the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal Stakes at Hastings.

“I feel that he’s better than he was last year,” Jordan said. “He looks to me like he’s in better racing condition. He never won a sprint until he did in Vancouver.”

Shillelagh Slew, last year’s champion 3-year-old, finished fourth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Vigil Stakes, his first race of the year.

Trainer Mike DePaulo believes a slow pace and a speed-favoring track, with plenty of kickback, hindered Shillelagh Slew’s chances in the Grade 3 Vigil.

“I was a little disappointed,” DePaulo said. “They went the first quarter in 23.40, and it was hard for my horse to close. He galloped out good, but they don’t pay you for that. He came out of it well. It was almost like a work. He’s going into this race in real good shape.”

The 2005 champion 3-year-old, Palladio, missed most of 2006 due to injury. He resurfaced over the winter at Gulfstream, finishing a fast-closing fourth in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap in March.

Most recently in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, Palladio was beaten just 1 3/4 lengths while ending up sixth.

Judiths Wild Rush, the champion sprinter in each of the past two years, ran evenly on the outside in a stalking position to end up third in the Vigil. He had a four-race winter campaign in the United Stakes, which included a victory by disqualification in the one-mile Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel.

U.S. invader Jade’s Revenge should be well-backed under Kent Desormeaux. Based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland with trainer Graham Motion, Jade’s Revenge has won 3 of 4 outings this year, including the nine-furlong Ben Ali in his last start.

Completing the field are this year’s Vigil winner, Just Rushing, and Royal Challenger, who was victorious in the 2006 Breeders’ Stakes.