06/05/2003 11:00PM

Kissed by a Prince a fairy-tale filly

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When Heather Landymore decided she wanted to own a racehorse, little could she have dreamed that she would be embarking on a whirlwind ride that has brought her to Sunday's $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Appropriately, the filly who will carry Landymore's colors postward is named Kissed by a Prince, who will be looking to provide a fairy-tale ending to an already improbable story.

Landymore, a 30-year-old lawyer who lives in Toronto, had never even been to a horse race until six years ago, when she was visiting Australia and was taken to the track by friends.

Upon her return, she began attending the races at Woodbine, where she became a major fan and a minor horseplayer.

But that peripheral involvement in the game began taking on a different shape in the fall of 2001, when Landymore and her sister decided to check out the yearling sale here.

"We saw that some of the horses were not that expensive," said Landymore. "I'd always thought they'd be unaffordable.

"For a while, I'd thought about getting more involved. So I started asking around, to find a trainer."

Landymore's inquiries eventually led to her being contacted by Mike DePaulo, whom she met for the first time just before the 2-year-olds in training sale here last May.

Attending the sale with DePaulo, and doing her own bidding, Landymore landed Kissed by a Prince for $25,000.

"After we got her, I said, 'What was our top?'" said DePaulo. "She said, '$25,000!' It worked out real nice."

Kissed by a Prince came out of the sale with shin problems, according to DePaulo, and was sent to the farm in early July with no prospects of starting as a 2-year-old.

Although Landymore could have been champing at the bit, she reacted with the poise of a veteran owner.

"I wasn't really disappointed," she said. "I know these things happen."

Kissed by a Prince returned to the racetrack in the fall, getting ready for her 3-year-old campaign.

"I brought her back, schooled her at the gate, and worked her," said DePaulo. "I wanted her to get a little experience, then give her a chance to develop and mature, so she could make the races early this year."

That objective was met, as Kissed by a Prince debuted in a five-furlong, maiden special weight race on the second weekend of the meeting.

"I didn't expect all that much in her first race," said Landymore. "I figured after four or five races, she'd maybe even win one. And, I knew she might end up being a claimer."

Landymore got a lot more than she bargained for in that first race, as Kissed by a Prince rallied to finish first by a head over a muddy racetrack. Landymore was getting ready to head down for her first win picture when the "inquiry" sign appeared.

In the length of time it took the stewards to demote Kissed by a Prince to fourth place, the filly's share of the purse had plummeted from $36,360 to $3,636.

But for Landymore, the excitement of watching her filly finish first overshadowed the disqualification.

"One of my friends was way more upset than I was," she said. "I figured she was a good horse, and there were other races."

It took only two weeks for Kissed by a Prince to redeem herself, as she again closed gamely from just off the pace to win a similar event at six furlongs, this time on fast going.

"The first time, I was actually a little more excited," said Landymore. "But it was nice the second time; I knew then that her first race wasn't just a fluke, because of the muddy track or whatever."

Shortly afterward, DePaulo told Landymore that she had a decision to make. Kissed by a Prince had not been kept eligible for the Labatt Woodbine Oaks and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $5,000 by May 1.

"It was a little ambitious," admitted DePaulo. "But [the filly had] already paid for herself."

Landymore was game, and Kissed by a Prince kept up her end of the bargain by winning an open first-level allowance race over seven furlongs on mud here May 11.

"I thought that would be a pretty good testing point," said DePaulo.

"Don't get me wrong; I would have loved to get a mile-and-a-sixteenth race under her belt. If she'd won her first race - if she hadn't been disqualified - I might have done things differently.

"But she's very rateable, and it seems like there's a lot of speed in the [Oaks]. We're hoping we can pick up some of the pieces, get lucky."

For Landymore, just being a part of the Labatt Woodbine Oaks is luck enough.

"I knew it was a big deal, but I didn't know what went along with it," said the owner, as she soaked up the atmosphere at the ceremonial draw here Thursday.