06/23/2006 12:00AM

Shillelagh Slew due for some good fortune

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Shillelagh Slew comes into Sunday's Queen's Plate with only one prep under his belt.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Mike DePaulo has always believed that Shillelagh Slew was something special. That theory will be put to the test here at Woodbine on Sunday, when Shillelagh Slew makes just his second start of the season and his first in eight weeks in the 1 1/4-mile .

"Would I like to have another race under him?" asked DePaulo. "We've just got to make the best with what we have."

What DePaulo and Shillelagh Slew have to show for 2006 is one seven-furlong race, an entry-level allowance here April 29, when he rallied from well off the pace to score by 4 1/2 lengths.

"His first race was a super race," said DePaulo, who recently celebrated his 42nd birthday and has been a licensed trainer for 20 years. "The part that was the most stunning was his gallop out. By the time he turned into the backstretch he was more than 30 lengths in front."

DePaulo had planned to use the Marine, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds here May 20, as Shillelagh Slew's final Queen's Plate prep. But Shillelagh Slew fell victim to the virus that was then making the rounds here and also had to undergo surgery for an entrapped epiglottis.

After Shillelagh Slew missed four days of training, DePaulo said he felt the June 4 Plate Trial was coming up too soon and that the June 11 Victoria Park was too late for a Queen's Plate prep. That's when DePaulo decided to train Shillelagh Slew up to the Queen's Plate.

And maybe fortune will now be kind to DePaulo. After all, it was through a simple twist of fate that Shillelagh Slew is even a member of his stable.

When DePaulo attended the 2004 September yearling sales here, his intention was to make a purchase in the range of $100,000 for owner David James.

"We wound up being the underbidder on Edenwold, at $97,000," said DePaulo. "He sold for $100,000."

Edenwold, purchased by Jim and Alice Sapara, went on to be Canada's champion 2-year-old for trainer Josie Carroll and also will be in this year's Queen's Plate lineup. DePaulo and James, meanwhile, went to Keeneland with the $100,000 bankroll intact.

"We wanted a Canadian-bred with some pedigree and some legs," said DePaulo, who said his first examination of Shillelagh Slew was not encouraging. "He had a little heat in his right tendon, and it looked a little odd. We thought we'd leave him alone."

Instead, DePaulo and James settled on a colt named Golden Mood, whom they purchased for $55,000.

Shillelagh Slew, however, would not go away.

"[Kentucky horseman] Ken McPeek, who's a friend of mine, told me there was a Canadian-bred he thought I should look at," said DePaulo. "I was made aware that he'd been bought back, and purchased him privately for $40,000 after the sale."

When Shillelagh Slew began breezing the following spring, DePaulo said it didn't take long for him to make a good impression.

"Every time he breezed, his gallop-out time was super," said DePaulo. "He's always shown he's a good-finishing horse. He's a big, strong, athletic horse."

Shillelagh Slew ran true to his morning form in his debut, finishing a closing third over seven furlongs on grass, and then switched to the main track and won a seven-furlong maiden special weight by 2 1/2 lengths. Shillelagh Slew disappointed in his next effort, however, finishing eighth in the Cup and Saucer at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The course was rated firm, but several well-regarded entrants did not handle it well.

DePaulo then began preparing Shillelagh Slew for the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity and was encouraged when Shillelagh Slew worked five furlongs in company with Ablo, a Roger Attfield-trained 3-year-old who had won the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie.

"We spotted Ablo a couple of lengths, and this horse beat him," said DePaulo. "I thought, Wow, how good could my horse be? I thought we were going to gallop in the Coronation. But it was a roughly run race, and he had a wide trip."

Shillelagh Slew finished third, beaten a half-length, in the Coronation Futurity and headed to Ocala during the off-season with the Queen's Plate firmly on his agenda.

DePaulo has not been disappointed by the development of Shillelagh Slew, who has blossom physically as a 3-year-old.

"He was kind of a stringbean last year," said DePaulo. "He was like a gangly 6-foot-5 teenager. Now, he's filled out. He's more of a man."