09/09/2005 12:00AM

Natalma showcases potential stars


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Owner Robert Costigan and trainer Mac Benson were fortunate enough to campaign Inish Glora, the Sovereign Award-winning champion turf female in each of the past two years. They could have another budding turf star in Arravale, a contestant in Sunday's $172,800 Natalma Stakes, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies at Woodbine.

Arravale closed wide from midpack to win her Aug. 13 debut in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race on the grass. She galloped out strongly under jockey David Clark.

Benson said he has always liked Arravale, who was a $190,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland.

"She's a nice, big, strong filly," Benson said. "She's a very mature, professional type, with a good head on her shoulders. She has done really good the last couple of months, and we're looking forward to running her."

Foreign invaders have dominated this Grade 3 event in recent years, and there are two American shippers in the 11-horse field - Shelterfromastorm and Leesburg Express.

Shelterfromastorm, based at Belmont with trainer Tom Bush, sprung an 18-1 upset at Saratoga when she won her only start with a powerful wide rally. She ran 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:43.20, which was good for a 73 Beyer Speed Figure.

Leesburg Express won his maiden second time out on the turf at Colonial Downs, capturing the 5 1/2-furlong Tippett Stakes over yielding ground July 30. Trainer Richard Trimmer tried her on the dirt most recently at Monmouth in the Junior Champion Stakes, and she finished second after stumbling at the break.

Other local runners in the lineup include A Touch of Glory, Knights Templar, and Top Notch Lady.

A Touch of Glory is a full sister to millionaire and champion Ginger Gold, who captured a division of the 2001 Natalma. A Touch of Glory dropped a neck decision to Arravale last time, which was her second straight narrow loss in maiden company.

"She has been a little slow to come around, but she will be okay," trainer Sid Attard said. "She's much smaller than her sister. When her sister was a 2-year-old, she looked like a 3-year-old."

Knights Templar is coming off a sharp-looking score in the six-furlong Ontario Debutante Stakes. She has yet to try the grass and has a dirt-oriented pedigree on the dam's side, but her sire, Exploit, has accumulated solid statistics with his turf offspring.

Top Notch Lady won first time out in a grass sprint before ending up fourth in the Ontario Debutante. A mile on the grass could be ideal for her.