Favored Shillelagh Slew made a strong case as Canada's champion 3-year-old in 2006 with a dominating 7 1/4-length win in Sunday's $179,278 Ontario Derby (Can-III) on the all-weather track at Woodbine.The Chief Seattle dark bay colt has been outstanding this year, winning four races from six starts, while contesting all three jewels of Canada's Triple Crown. After running fifth in the Queen's Plate, he finished first in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie after being placed in top spot through disqualification, and third in the Breeders' Stakes.A lifetime winner of five races from 10 starts, the David James colt came into the Ontario Derby off a stylish 6 1/2-length score in the Canadian Derby (Can-III) Aug. 26 at Northlands Park in Edmonton.Stradivinsky seized control early, taking the six-horse field (Seaside Retreat was scratched) through opening fractions of :24.48 and :48.17. Under regular rider Dino Luciani, Shillelagh Slew tracked in second along the rail.As Stradivinsky tired after three-quarters in 1:13.34, Luciani cued the Quebec-bred and Shillelagh Slew responded, opening up on his rivals to win under a hand ride in a time of 1:51.65 over the Polytrack surface.Royal Challenger, who captured the Breeders' Stakes, rallied for second, while Storm Caller finished a neck back in third."He's just come into himself," said Luciani of the winner. "He's done everything we asked, and he proved it once again today how good he really is." Health issues plagued Shillelagh Slew leading up to the Queen's Plate, but the Haras Du Chevrillard-bred is undoubtedly at the top of his game these days.
"He's really changed from two to three," noted conditioner Mike DePaulo. "He was sort of a skinny guy last year and he's a bigger, stronger horse this year. We've got a really nice horse. Hopefully, we're going to continue."Shillelagh Slew, who carried top weight of 121 pounds Sunday, has only missed a check once in his career, an eighth-place finish in last year's Cup & Saucer Stakes over Woodbine's E.P. Taylor Turf Course.He paid $6.40, $3.20, and $2.50 and combined with Royal Challenger ($3.50, $2.70) for an $18.80 exacta. Storm Caller ($3.50) capped off a $107.80 trifecta.Ports N Porsches ran fourth, followed by Oh So Awesome and Stradivinsky.(Chart, Equibase)