07/19/2007 11:00PM

Arravale finally starts her season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - All eyes will be upon Arravale when she makes her seasonal debut here in Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Dance Smartly, the main supporting feature on the Northern Dancer Day program.

Arravale, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old owned by Bob Costigan and trained by Mac Benson, won two Grade 1 turf races last year and was voted Canada's Horse of the Year and top turf filly or mare.

But the Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, will be the first start for Arravale since she captured the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes here on Oct. 22.

Scheduled to return in the Grade 2 Nassau here June 2, Arravale had to be put on hold for another seven weeks.

"The Nassau was the original plan," Benson said. "But when she popped a splint, we had to change that and go for this one."

The sky could be the limit for Arravale, who has won 5 of 8 starts in her first two campaigns. But the first order of business will be for Arravale to handle her six Dance Smartly opponents despite a nine-month layoff.

"It's always a concern," Benson said of Arravale's absence. "But she's doing great.

"She's got to get started somewhere, and this certainly looks as good a place as any."

Jose Valdivia Jr., who began a profitable partnership with Arravale when they teamed up to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last summer, will be in from California for the mount on the 124-pound highweight.

Masseuse, who is based at Belmont with Jim Toner, is the likeliest candidate to play the role of spoiler here.

A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred, Masseuse comes into the Dance Smartly off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 New York Handicap over 1 1/4 miles of firm turf at Belmont on June 23.

"She's doing good," Toner said. "She came out of her last race good.

"Mac's filly's going to be very tough to beat, but it's her first start back and I figured if we ever had a shot, this would be the time to take a run at her."

In her start prior to the New York, Masseuse captured Aqueduct's Grade 3 Beaugay over 1 1/16 miles of yielding going.

Edgar Prado, who piloted Masseuse that day, has the mount here Sunday.

May Night, who shipped in from Kentucky to finish second in the Nassau over 1 1/16 miles of turf, returns following an interim sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 All Along at Colonial Downs.

Locally based Essential Edge and Elle Runaway, the third- and fourth-place finishers in the Nassau, also are back in action, along with Scarlet Butterfly, a winner of her last two, including the Dance Smartly prep here June 29.

Elle Runaway will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who is flying in for the mount on Obrigado in the Northern Dancer.