04/30/2006 11:00PM

Star Shoot winners paid their dues for years

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
When Summer Girlfriend won Saturday's Star Shoot, it was a rare stakes victory for trainer John Charalambous and owner Allen Abbott.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There was a different look to the stakes winner's circle in the infield following Summer Girlfriend's success in Sunday's $125,400 Star Shoot here at Woodbine.

Trainer John Charalambous had last made the trek over to the charmed circle after Countess Steffi captured the Ontario Fashion on Nov. 4, 1995, and he was ecstatic in the wake of Summer Girlfriend's win.

But the trainer's reaction almost paled when compared to that of Allen Abbott, who owns Summer Girlfriend under his nom du course, Equilease Racing Stable.

"I've dreamed about this day every day," said Abbott, who has battled through recent personal hardships, including the loss of the family home to fire and the death of his father.

"Whether it was the Star Shoot or the Queen's Plate, I wanted to go across to that infield," Abbott said. "This is one for the little guy."

Abbott, who is in the equipment financing business in Toronto, has owned horses since 1998 and has six runners here with Charalambous.

"I'd worked as a mutuel clerk for five years, all through university," said Abbott. "I fell in love with the sport."

Summer Girlfriend's front-running Star Shoot win under jockey Gerry Olguin was her second appearance of the season, as she had finished second in the five-furlong Star Shoot prep here April 9.

The six-furlong Star Shoot, an open race for 3-year-old fillies, originally had been slated for April 23, but that card was canceled midway through the afternoon as heavy rain swamped the racetrack.

Gumboots, who had defeated Summer Girlfriend in the prep, and Summer Cruise, who had shipped in from Delaware, were original entrants but did not participate Sunday.

"This filly's better now than she was for her first race," said Charalambous. "She's got lots of guts, lots of determination."

Summer Girlfriend is a Kentucky-bred, and the 1 1/16-mile Selene on May 21 is the next open stakes race for the 3-year-old filly division.

"I think she's a sprinter," said Charalambous. "But I really have no idea what I'm going to do with her next. It took me 11 years to get here; I just want to enjoy the moment."

Judiths Wild Rush may take show on the road

The celebrations following Saturday's $150,800 Vigil featured some familiar faces, as Judiths Wild Rush recorded his second stakes win of the season for owner Harvey Tenenbaum, trainer Reade Baker, and jockey Jim McAleney.

"I think it was his best race since I've had him," said Baker, who took over as Judiths Wild Rush's trainer in the spring of 2005. "Jimmy never even hit him."

Judiths Wild Rush, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old horse, captured the six-furlong Jacques Cartier here April 15 in his local debut for 2006. The Vigil, which Judiths Wild Rush also won last year, was his sixth career stakes score, all at Woodbine.

But the stakes pickings here will now start to get lean for Judiths Wild Rush, with the July 22 Bold Venture and the Nov. 19 Kennedy Road the only remaining main-track sprint offerings for the older open set. So Judiths Wild Rush could be hitting the road for the True North, a six-furlong race at Belmont on June 10.

"It's a couple of weeks after the Met Mile; that might scatter the sprinters down there," said Baker.

Baker celebrated his 59th birthday on Sunday with a win by the 3-year-old filly Vestrey Lady. That victory was the fourth of the three-day racing week and the fifth straight for Baker, whose streak was snapped in Sunday's finale. He leads the trainer standings with 12 wins and earnings of $537,391 heading into the first five-day racing week of the meeting.

DePaulo plots a path to Queen's Plate

Trainer Mike DePaulo also has been on a roll, winning three races last week.

The victory with the most important implications was that of Shillelagh Slew, who lived up to his advance notices as a Queen's Plate prospect with a romping win in his seasonal debut here Saturday.

Shillelagh Slew, a Quebec-bred owned by David James, rallied from 11th place in a field of 12 to prevail by 4 1/4 lengths under regular rider Dino Luciani in the first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

"Visually, he was very impressive," said DePaulo. "He ran a real powerful race. He finished real well and galloped out strong."

DePaulo plans to run Shillelagh Slew in the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, a 1 1/16-mile race here May 20, and then proceed directly to the Queen's Plate.

The $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run on June 25.

"I'd like to give him plenty of time prior to the Plate," said DePaulo, who would be bypassing other preps such as the June 4 Plate Trial and June 11 Victoria Park. "The other races are important, but they're not that important. The Plate's the one with all the zeros next to it."

Bad Hat to make 2006 debut in Queenston

Bad Hat, also on the Queen's Plate trail for DePaulo, is slated to make his seasonal debut in Saturday's seven-furlong Queenston.

"He's doing very well," said DePaulo, who sent out Bad Hat to breeze five furlongs in 1:02 here last Saturday. "I expect him to run a really big race."

Slade Callaghan, who piloted Bad Hat to his first two wins in a perfect three-start campaign last year, regains the mount for the Queenston.