05/15/2006 11:00PM

Shillelagh Slew ill, will skip Marine

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Seattlespectacular wins the first grass race this year at Woodbine, to stay unbeaten on turf.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Shillelagh Slew, one of the favorites for this year's $1 million Queen's Plate, was scheduled to have his final prep in Saturday's Marine but will not be in the lineup.

"He's fighting a virus," said trainer Mike DePaulo on Tuesday morning.

Shillelagh Slew, a Quebec-bred colt owned by David James, had been highly regarded in the early prognostications for the June 25 Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

And Shillelagh Slew lived up to his notices in his season debut, impressively winning a first-level allowance at seven furlongs while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 87.

Now, with the Marine plan scuttled, DePaulo will have to map out an alternate course to the Queen's Plate for Shillelagh Slew.

"We have to get a two-turn race into him," said DePaulo.

The final two stakes preps for the Queen's Plate, both at 1 1/8 miles, are the June 4 Plate Trial for Canadian-breds and the June 11 Victoria Park, an open race for 3-year-olds.

V S O P Please makes triple-digit Beyer debut

The term V S O P refers to very superior old pale, a fine grade of cognac.

And the horse, V S O P Please, lived up to his moniker as he turned in a spectacular debut at the age of 4 here recently.

V S O P Please, a gelding owned by Herbert Chambers and trained by Jody Hammett, was lightly regarded at 7-1 in a six-furlong Ontario-sired maiden special on May 7.

But it didn't take long for V S O P Please to make an impression as he sped to a 9 3/4-length victory under jockey Jono Jones in 1:09.99, earning a startling first-out Beyer Figure of 100.

"I was thinking about running him at five furlongs, but I was worried he wouldn't have that kind of speed," said Hammett. "He proved us wrong there."

V S O P Please, despite not breaking all that quickly, led by a head through a quarter in 21.96 seconds and by two lengths through a half in 44.83.

"I'd told Jono to try to get him to relax," said Hammett. "I didn't want him to run too hard, too fast.

"But, when he was on the lead up there, it looked like he was going comfortably. I was just hoping he had something left."

V S O P Please obviously had plenty left, as he widened under light handling.

"I was expecting him to run good; I liked him," said Hammett. "But when a horse does something like that, everybody's shocked. He shocked the jockey, he shocked me, he shocked the owner."

V S O P Please, a $3,000 purchase at the local mixed sale, never came to the racetrack as a 2-year-old.

"He was too big," said Hammett. "We left him up at the farm, and let him develop."

V S O P Please was introduced to the racetrack routine last year, but again did not race.

"He was breezing in company with winners, and handled them easily," said Hammett. "But then, he came up with some complications and I sent him home about the end of August.

"I knew he was going to be a good horse, and thought there was no point pushing on him."

Despite V S O P Please's auspicious debut, Hammett intends to maintain a conservative approach.

"I'd like to run him through his conditions and point him towards the yearling sales stakes," said Hammett, referring to the six-furlong Kenora for 3-year-olds and up at Woodbine here Sept. 4.

"He's definitely a nice horse."

Patten and Attard's big weekend

Owner Roger Patten and trainer Sid Attard capped a lucrative weekend here Sunday when Seattlespectacular won the first turf race of the meeting and took the $52,740 winner's prize in the allowance prep for the Connaught Cup.

On Saturday, Patten and Attard watched Sky Diamond take home the $47,040 winner's share of a fourth-level allowance/optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles and attract a $77,500 claim in the process.

Seattlespectacular and Sky Diamond both are 6-year-old geldings and were making their season debuts.

Seattlespectacular, claimed for $40,000 here last August, was recording his fifth win in his last six starts, including two stakes victories. He is undefeated in four career starts on grass, all for his current connections.

Sky Diamond, claimed for $35,000 in July 2004, got his eighth win in 17 starts for Patten and Attard, and was claimed by trainer Bob Tiller on behalf of The Very Dry Stable.

Seattlespectacular iffy for Connaught Cup

Seattlespectacular was making his first start since romping to a 10 3/4-length win here in last year's closing-day Valedictory.

"He didn't really surprise us," said Attard. "He was tight enough; he had lots of works. He ran very big."

Seattlespectacular is among 27 nominees to the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up on May 28.

"We're not sure if we'll go there yet," said Attard. "Two weeks back might be a little quick. If it's soft, he won't run."

Jambalaya, a Sovereign Award finalist in the turf male category last year, ran third as the mild favorite in the prep in his first start since finishing seventh the Canadian International last Oct. 23.

"I was happy with it," said Catherine Day Phillips, who trains Jambalaya for her Kingfield Farm. "I thought he ran well. The race should set him up well for the Connaught Cup."