05/27/2008 11:00PM

Arravale looks to get back on track


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Arravale, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred trained by Mac Benson, was Canada's Horse of the Year and champion turf female when she won 3 of 5 starts and more than $1 million in 2006.

Last year, Arravale made the same number of appearances but registered just a third-place finish in a campaign plagued by untimely setbacks and bad racing luck.

On Saturday, Arravale will be looking to regain some of her lost luster when she goes postward here in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

"She's training good; everything's fine," said Benson, who trains Arravale. "She's as sound right now as she was at this time last year. I'm certainly looking for her to start running the way we know she can."

Arravale, who wintered with Benson at Payson Park, stopped over at Keeneland to make her seasonal bow in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley, a 1 1/16-mile turf race in which she finished ninth in the field of 10 but was beaten just 3 3/4 lengths under Jose Valdivia.

"She started out in the toughest spot you could possibly find," Benson said. "The distance was not her best, and she'd been off for more than five months.

"I certainly look for that race to do her a lot of good."

Valdivia, who joined forces with Arravale for her victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks in the summer of 2006, has been aboard for all but one of her subsequent starts and retains the mount for the Nassau.

The 11-horse field for the Nassau also includes Sealy Hill, who was Canada's Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old, and champion turf filly or mare in 2007, but finished last in her 2008 debut in the Jenny Wiley.

Sugar Bay possible for Woodbine Oaks

Benson, who won the Woodbine Oaks with La Lorgnette in 1985 and with Deputy Jane West in 1993, could send out Sugar Bay for this year's edition on June 8.

Sugar Bay, owned and bred by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge Jr., is coming off a second-place finish under jockey Corey Fraser in an allowance for nonwinners of two here May 19.

That 1 1/16-mile race was the second of the season and the first around two turns for Sugar Bay, and the winner, the winter-raced Money by Honey, is among those heading for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

Sugar Bay picked up minor awards in each of her three sprint starts at 2.

"We liked her last year, but we couldn't control her speed," said Benson. "We worked on her all winter. When we got up here we put Corey on her, and they seemed to get along exceptionally. He seems to fit the filly very nicely."

In her first start under Fraser, Sugar Bay settled well and rallied for a 3 3/4-length win in a six-furlong maiden race.

Gloriously eyes Belmont's Acorn

Trainer Mark Casse, who won the last two editions of the Woodbine Oaks with Sealy Hill and Kimchi, does not plan to be represented in this year's running.

"It looks like there'll be no three-peat," Casse said.

Gloriously, who suffered her first defeat when second in the seven-furlong Fury here April 27, is one of the more talented Woodbine Oaks nominees, but Casse is looking elsewhere for her.

"We're thinking about taking Gloriously and running in the Acorn," said Casse, referring to the Grade 1, $250,000 race for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the June 7 Belmont Stakes Day undercard. "We're just thinking maybe the mile and an eighth of the Oaks may be a bit too much."

Gloriously had started just twice prior to the Fury, winning her maiden at six furlongs at Fair Grounds on March 1 and a first-level allowance at seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 5.

Not Bourbon drills for Plate Trial

Not Bourbon, a Queen's Plate candidate trained by Roger Attfield, breezed four furlongs in 46.20 seconds here Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

Regular rider Jono Jones was aboard for the drill, which was the fastest of 30 at the distance.

"I wanted a sharp work," Attfield said. "I scoped him, and he didn't displace like he did last time."

Not Bourbon's last workout had been an exercise in frustration for Attfield, as the colt finished in 1:45 for one mile after going too fast through the early stages and then showing signs of having displaced his palate afterward.

And while Attfield was more content with Wednesday's move, he still admits to harboring doubts over Not Bourbon's ability to stay the trip in his first try around two turns.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's the acid test," said Attfield, who sent out Not Bourbon to win the seven-furlong Queenston in his last start here May 3. "I still question him at the distance, but I've done what I can."

The $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, will be run here June 22.

Sans Souci gets fast tune-up for Nassau

Sans Souci Island also got the "bullet" for Attfield when she worked four furlongs in 47.80 seconds on the training track turf course here Wednesday morning.

Regular rider Emma-Jayne Wilson was aboard for the drill, which was Sans Souci Island's final tune-up for the Nassau.

True Metropolitan breezes at Woodbine

True Metropolitan, back at Woodbine after beginning his season on a winning note at Hastings, breezed seven furlongs in a strong 1:26.80 under jockey Jim McAleney here Wednesday.

A 6-year-old gelding owned by Vancouver-based Bob Cheema and trained by Terry Jordan, who maintains divisions here and at Hastings, True Metropolitan began his current campaign with a sharp score in the six-furlong George Royal on May 3.

True Metropolitan is nominated to the Gradeo3, $150,000 Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and upward here June 7.

His long-term target is the July 1 Dominion Day, a 1 1/4-mile race that True Metropolitan won last year en route to his second consecutive title as Canada's champion older horse.