05/28/2008 11:00PM

Champs to clash in Nassau


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sealy Hill and Arravale, the last two Canadian horses of the year, will meet over 1 1/16 miles on the grass Saturday at Woodbine in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau Stakes.

Sealy Hill garnered the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old filly last year, when she became the first winner of the Canadian Triple Tiara, a series for 3-year-old fillies that includes the Woodbine Oaks.

Sealy Hill ran a corker in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes in October, when she was second to favored Mrs. Lindsay after looking like the winner in midstretch. Trainer Mark Casse felt Sealy Hill would have won the Taylor had she not eased herself up after hitting the front.

"She pulled herself up, which is not unusual for her," said Casse. "You never know what she's going to do. She can go left, she can go right, or she can pull herself up."

In her season opener, the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, Sealy Hill finished last in the 10-horse field after making a bid and then fading under Patrick Husbands.

"It was a tough race," Casse said. "There were three or four millionaires in the field. I expected her to run well. She made a move inside horses turning for home, and a filly came over on her and made it a bit tight. Patrick had to check her just a touch, and after that she backed out of there and quit running."

Casse is content with the way Sealy Hill has come up to the Nassau.

"She's been training really well on the Polytrack," said Casse. "We're hoping at 4 that she runs as well as she used to, without so many quirks."

Arravale, the 2006 Horse of the Year and champion turf female, recorded just a single third-place finish in five starts last year. She finished just in front of Sealy Hill in ninth when she came off the sidelines in the April 12 Jenny Wiley.

The Niagara Queen, fourth in last year's Taylor, was recently third in an allowance here on the Polytrack in her first start for trainer Steve Asmussen. Assistant trainer Steve Flint said The Niagara Queen needed her first race back.

"She hadn't run since October," Flint said. "That race served a purpose, and she came out of it healthy and happy. Hopefully, she'll improve off of that and run well Saturday."