07/19/2007 11:00PM

A clash of Grade 1 winners


Locally based Grade 1 stakes winners Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya will take on a pair of strong U.S. shippers Sunday in the $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf, a 1 1/2-mile stakes that will encompass one lap of Woodbine's expansive course.

There are three other stakes on Sunday's card, most notably the Grade 2 Dance Smartly, which will be the season debut of the 2006 Canadian Horse of the Year, Arravale.

Sky Conqueror, who like Jambalaya is a descendent of Northern Dancer, won this race last year en route to being voted the Sovereign Award winner as champion male grass runner. He ran the race of his life in his next-to-last start, taking the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs with a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

Trainer Darwin Banach said Sky Conqueror overcame adversity in the nine-furlong Woodford Reserve to prevail by a nose over Brilliant.

"He stumbled badly leaving the gate, and ripped his front shoe off," Banach said. "He picked himself up, had a tremendous kick at the end, and got up by a whisker."

Banach shipped Sky Conqueror to Belmont for the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes on June 9, but had to scratch him after the horse tied up.

Following a two-month break here, on July 2 Sky Conqueror was a narrowly beaten second to Eccentric in the Grade 2 King Edward BC Stakes.

"I thought he might have been a little rusty," said Banach. "He made a big run and didn't quite get there."

Edgar Prado, last year's Eclipse Award-winning rider, replaces Todd Kabel on Sky Conqueror.

"We want to develop a good connection with Prado," said Banach. "Down the road, if we run in New York or someplace else, hopefully, we'll have him on our side."

Jambalaya, trained by Catherine Day Phillips, finished third in the 2006 Northern Dancer. He had a sensational winter campaign, climaxing with his exciting triumph in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park BC Handicap, in which he overcame traffic problems to win by a neck under Javier Castellano.

"It looked like he had lots of horse," Day Phillips said. "Everybody else moved, and he had nowhere to go. It almost looked like he was losing ground, but all of a sudden a seam opened up, and away he went."

Jambalaya got a three-month freshening after taking the Grade 3 Pan American Handicap over 1 1/2 miles March 31. When he returned to action in the nine-furlong King Edward, he finished a neck back in third, an effort Day Phillips said she was content with.

"He was coming off a big layoff, and was cutting back from a three-turn race to one turn," said Day Phillips. "He came out of it well, and is going forward."

Obrigado and Marsh Side have both shipped in for the Northern Dancer.

Based in California, Obrigado won the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap over 1 1/2 miles at Santa Anita in February. He never challenged in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic in March, but was an encouraging third behind After Market and Lava Man most recently, going 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood.

"He didn't handle the ground in Dubai at all, and got boxed in at the back," said trainer Neil Drysdale. "But he ran well against Lava Man, and was coming at the end. I think he's more suited to a mile and a half, and he should love the course."

Marsh Side, based in Maryland with trainer Michael Dickinson, hasn't started since his victory in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Stakes on the Polytrack here in December.

Last Answer has struggled this year, but he was a bang-up second in the 2006 Northern Dancer after maintaining a clear lead until deep stretch.

Trainer Roger Attfield entered Pellegrino and The Carbon Unit.

Pellegrino, now 8, won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup at the end of his 5-year-old campaign in 2004. He hit the board for the first time in six starts over the local turf when he captured the June 24 Singspiel Stakes.

The Carbon Unit is winless since his victory in a listed stakes in Ireland in the fall of 2005.

French Beret was recently third in 1 1/2-mile Singspiel under Kabel, who retains the mount.