11/30/2007 12:00AM

Good news for Benson: Arravale to return in '08

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Not too many things went right this year for veteran trainer Mac Benson and he acknowledges that fact.

"It's been a disappointing year," said Benson.

Benson entered 2007 with high hopes centered on Arravale, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly he trains for Bob Costigan. But at least Benson can forward to next year with Arravale, who will be staying in training.

Arravale closed out her season with a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. She had decent position heading into the first turn that day but lost all chance when Simply Perfect, racing to her inside, bore out dramatically, taking Arravale with her.

"She's fine," said Benson, who brought Arravale back to Woodbine. "She does better under tack. We'll keep her in light training all winter and plan for a big year next year, hopefully."

Arravale, who had won two Grade 1 stakes and earned more than $1 million during her Canadian Horse of the Year campaign in 2006, was winless in five starts and earned $22,469 this year.

"Everything went wrong for her from the beginning," said Benson. "She popped a splint and it took her forever to get over that. Then, the races just did not fall in for us. We tried to play catch-up, and that's tough to do in this game."

Arravale was scheduled to make her 2007 bow on June 2 in the Nassau at Woodbine, but she did not make it to the post until July 22, when she weakened and finished sixth in the Dance Smartly.

After running third in an allowance prep for the Canadian, Arravale finished 10th in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, fifth in the Grade 2 First Lady at Keeneland, and then ran in the Breeders' Cup.

Benson's Florida string

Arravale will be among 16 horses with Benson at his longtime off-season base of Payson Park, Fla. Benson's wife and assistant, Barb Przedrzymirska, is already in Florida.

Other horses slated to be in Benson's Payson Park contingent include Pleasant Amelia, Ice Bear, Pugilistic, Sehgal, Chauvinist, Sugar Bay, and Rawson's Retreat. All except Rawson's Retreat are homebreds owned by George Strawbridge Jr.

Pleasant Amelia, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old filly, will be looking for her first win of 2007 while making her 12th start of the year here on Sunday afternoon.

All of Pleasant Amelia's starts this year have come in second-level allowance/$62,500 optional claiming races, and she has 3 wins and 3 seconds with earnings of $77,337.

Ice Bear, a 3-year-old gelding, gave Benson his lone stakes win of the Woodbine meeting, in the Charlie Barley over one mile on the turf here June 24. Ice Bear also won over 1 1/16 miles on the main track in a second-level allowance/$62,500 optional claimer and earned $136,458 from 10 starts.

Pugilistic, a 3-year-old filly, and Sehgal, a 3-year-old gelding, both ran well when beginning their careers on the turf this spring but went to the sidelines early.

"They both had a few problems, and I didn't push them," said Benson.

Sugar Bay, a 2-year-old filly, and Chauvinist, a 2-year-old colt, are maidens who showed some ability.

Rawson's Retreat is a 2-year-old filly who finished second in each of her two starts this year while competing in the upper maiden-claiming ranks. Rawson's Retreat is named after a brand of Australian wine.

Wilson's whirlwind December

The first half of December will be a very busy time for jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson.

Following the Sunday card at Woodbine, Wilson will leave for Hong Kong to compete in the Cathay Pacific International Jockey Championships at Happy Valley on Wednesday.

Wilson, who will be accompanied by her agent, Mike Luider, will be home in time to ride the final two cards of the Woodbine meet next Saturday and Sunday.

Her engagements include mounts in the two weekend stakes - on Cobotown Ron for next Saturday's Kingarvie and Near Noise for next Sunday's closing-day Valedictory.

This Monday she will be off to Las Vegas, for the Jockey's Benefit Association of Canada's annual meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wilson then will return home, but is scheduled to be at Calder Race Course on Dec. 15 to ride Sans Souci Island for trainer Roger Attfield in the Grade 2, $200,000 La Prevoyante.

After taking time off to spend the holidays here with her family, Wilson will be off to Fair Grounds, where she won 25 races in her first venture there last winter.

"I've got an apartment set up for the first of January," she said.

Despite missing three days next week, Wilson stands a solid chance of finishing as the second-leading rider at the meeting in her first full campaign without an apprentice allowance.

Through Thursday's card Wilson had won 126 races, two fewer than leading rider Patrick Husbands and two more than third-place Tyler Pizarro.

Winner of the Sovereign Award as outstanding apprentice while also topping the Woodbine standings in 2005 and 2006, Wilson lost her bug last Aug. 12.

"I'm just glad to maintain the momentum we've had for the last couple of years, and been able to show it's not just been the five pounds," said Wilson. "It's been a very successful year. Winning the Queen's Plate with Mike Fox was the icing on the cake."

* The final two cards of the meeting, next Saturday and Sunday, will begin a half-hour earlier than usual at 12:40 p.m. Racing secretary Steve Lym says the race office plans to card nine races on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday and Friday, 11 Saturday, and 12 on Sunday.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its final meeting this year on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Champions Lounge.