12/07/2006 12:00AM

Arravale primed for big night


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Arravale, the only Canadian-based horse to win a Grade 1 this year, is the marquee name among the divisional finalists for this year's Sovereign Awards.

The Jockey Club of Canada, which conducts the Sovereign Award voting, announced the three finalists in each of 15 divisions Thursday afternoon. A total of 61 voters participated in the online voting, ranking their three choices in each category with points assigned on a 4-2-1 basis.

The winners, along with the finalists and Horse of the Year winner, will be announced at the 32nd annual Sovereign Awards ceremony at InterContinental Toronto Centre on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Arravale, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old turf specialist owned by Bob Costigan of Vancouver and trained here at Woodbine by Mac Benson, won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 1 1/8 miles and then defeated older fillies and mares in Woodbine's Grade 1 E.P. Taylor over 1 1/4 miles. Those wins make Arravale an overwhelming favorite in the turf female category, in which the finalists also include defending champion Ambitious Cat, and also make her a prime contender for Horse of the Year honors.

Sky Conqueror, who won two Grade 2 turf stakes here and finished a troubled third in the Grade 1 Canadian International, is the leading candidate in the male turf horse category and also should attract support in the Horse of the Year voting.

In addition to Ambitious Cat, both Edenwold and Judiths Wild Rush will be looking to become repeat Sovereign Award winners.

Edenwold, Canada's champion 2-year-old male of 2005, won this year's Queen's Plate for owners Jim and Alice Sapara and trainer Josie Carroll.

Judiths Wild Rush, who won two Woodbine stakes and finished second in a Grade 2 at Saratoga for owner Harvey Tenenbaum and trainer Reade Baker, is a finalist in both the sprinter and older male category this year. He was voted Canada's champion sprinter last year.

Baker, voted Canada's outstanding trainer last year, is a finalist again this year, along with Mark Casse, Sid Attard, and Vancouver-based Terry Jordan. There are four finalists in the training category because there was a tie for third in the voting.

The finalists for the 3-year-old filly title include Vestrey Lady, who won two stakes at Woodbine and was second in the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland for Baker; and Kimchi, winner of the Woodbine Oaks and the Bison City when trained by Casse.

Casse also trains Sealy Hill, a finalist for the 2-year-old filly award, and Skip Code, a finalist for the 2-year-old colt or gelding award along with the undefeated Leonnatus Anteas and Barilko.

Financingavailable will be a big favorite in the older female category. A 5-year-old, she won five stakes at Woodbine for owner K.K. Sangara and trainer Lorne Richards.

True Metropolitan, owned by Bob Cheema and based and trained by Jordan, dominated his ranks in Vancouver and Alberta before branding himself as Canada's top older male with a commanding victory in the Woodbine Slots Cup.

Cheema also is a finalist in the outstanding owner category, along with Sam-Son Farm and Stronach Stable.

Todd Kabel, who rode True Metropolitan here, could win his fourth consecutive title as outstanding jockey.

The other finalists in the jockey category are Emma-Jayne Wilson, who will finish as Woodbine's leading rider for the second consecutive year, and Patrick Husbands.

Wilson, who lost her apprentice allowance in August, also is a finalist for the outstanding apprentice award. Last year, she won both the Sovereign and Eclipse awards as outstanding apprentice.

Justin Stein, who was a Sovereign and Eclipse finalist last year and also lost his "bug" in August, is a finalist for apprentice honors again this year.