09/06/2006 11:00PM

German filly leads turf invasion

Arravale, here winning the Del Mar Oaks, needs two more starts in Canada by Nov. 26 for a title bid.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine will be hoping for a strong influx of Europeans this fall, with the runnings of the $2 million Canadian International and $1 million E.P. Taylor on the not-so-distant horizon.

The first potential overseas candidate scheduled to arrive for one of those Grade 1 turf races on Oct. 22 is Almerita, a German-based 3-year-old filly who was expected to check in late Thursday with an eye toward the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor.

Almerita, trained by Waldemar Hickst, is slated to test the waters here in next Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that is the major local prep for the 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor.

The Canadian will serve as the major supporting feature to the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile on a card that also will include the Grade 3 Summer for 2-year-olds at one mile on turf.

Almerita became a Group 1 winner in the Preis der Diana (German Oaks) at 1 1/8 miles on soft going at Dusseldorf on June 4.

In her only subsequent start, Almerita was beaten 1 1/2 lengths as the third-place finisher against males in the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, a Group 1 race for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/4 miles on good turf in Munich on July 30.

Laverock, a 4-year-old colt who finished a half-length ahead of Almerita as the runner-up there, had won the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp earlier this spring.

Arravale to race back home

Locals eyeing the Canadian include Arravale, who would be facing older fillies and mares for the first time after winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf in her last start, on Aug. 19.

For Arravale, owned by Bob Costigan and trained by Mac Benson, it was her second race in succession in California, after her third-place finish in the Grade 1 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on the Hollywood Park turf course July 2.

In her only other start this season, Arravale won the Alywow at 6 1/2 furlongs on grass here June 11.

Costigan owned Inish Glora, winner of back-to-back Sovereign Awards in the filly/mare turf category in 2003 and 2004, and he would like nothing more than to see Arravale follow suit. To be eligible, however, Arravale needs to make two more appearances in Canada before the Nov. 26 deadline.

Being Kentucky-bred, and with no open 3-year-old turf stakes remaining on the schedule, Arravale is left with the Canadian and the E.P. Taylor as her qualifying course of action.

Jose Valdivia, who rode Arravale for the first time in the Del Mar Oaks, is scheduled to be back aboard for the Canadian.

In the meantime, Arravale had her first work on Polytrack here Monday, breezing four furlongs in 47.20 seconds.

"It couldn't have gone much better," said Benson.

Roger Laurin back after 12 years

Roger Laurin is remembered as the trainer of such stalwarts as Chief's Crown, the Eclipse Award 2-year-old champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner in 1984 and winner of the Travers in 1985; Numbered Account, the Eclipse-winning 2-year-old filly in 1971; Drumtop, a filly who won the Canadian International in 1970; and multiple stakes winners Pearl Necklace, Miss Cavendish, and Current Hope, among many others.

Now Laurin, the son of Secretariat's trainer, Lucien Laurin, has returned to the training game at age 71 after a 12-year hiatus and has checked into Woodbine this week with his two-horse stable.

After keeping in touch with Thoroughbred racing as an owner and breeder on a modest scale, Laurin officially began his training comeback in New York this summer with Icy City and Charming Country, a pair of 2-year-olds whom he owns and bred.

"My golf game was going so bad, it was more aggravating to play golf than to train horses," said Laurin.

Icy City, a New York-bred, won her maiden race at Saratoga and then finished fourth in the $126,725 Lady Finger at Finger Lakes.

In her last start, Icy City faced mixed company in the $250,310 New York Breeders' Futurity and ended fourth.

Charming Country, a 2-year-old gelding, is unraced.

Laurin is no stranger to Woodbine.

A homebred of his, Country Stage, began her career here in 1990 and was here with Laurin for stints over the following three years, winning the Victoriana in 1992.

Miss Chief, another homebred owned by Laurin, campaigned here briefly with trainer Phil Gracey in 2001.

New shoe policy begins Wednesday

Effective Wednesday, Woodbine will implement shoe restrictions for its new Polytrack surface. Only flat Queens Plate, Queens Plate XT, or equivalent shoes may be used.

The regulations mirror those introduced for the E.P. Taylor turf course this year.

"I've had a couple of trainers who thought they'd like to use a bit of a toe grab behind, but they weren't terribly concerned," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president of Thoroughbred racing.

* The local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society will conduct the preferred session of its 2006 yearling auction here Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m. in the Woodbine sales pavilion.