09/12/2007 11:00PM

Sky Conqueror, Arravale join Mile

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - Fence-sitters Sky Conqueror and Arravale, both based here at Woodbine, took the plunge, and a deep field of 14 was announced at Thursday's ceremonial draw for the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile here Sunday.

Sky Conqueror, who will be cutting back from 1 1/2 miles to one mile on the turf, also had the option of next Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Sky Classic at 1 3/8 miles on turf.

"If he can perform very well with the best mile horses, it has to make him one of the best grass horses in North America," said trainer Darwin Banach. "We have to give him a shot. It's a million dollars, in our own back yard."

Arravale, who will be the only filly in the Woodbine Mile lineup, had a ready alternative in this Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

"Her owner wanted to run her here," said Mac Benson, who trains Arravale for Bob Costigan. "She'll like the mile. She's sharp right now."

Sky Conqueror, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, is the fourth choice at 6-1 on the morning line of Woodbine's oddsmaker, Jennifer Morrison, and will begin from post 4.

"That has to be a good post for us," said Banach. "He's going to get covered up early, and that's okay. It's a shorter distance for us, with a long run to the turn.

"It gives Javier a chance to get him into position to get through horses."

Arravale, with Jose Valdivia in the irons, will break from post 12 and is listed at 15-1.

"I'd rather be in a little closer, but it's all according to how the race shapes up," said Benson, who also cited the long run to the first turn in the one-turn mile.

Meanwhile, the morning-line favorite for the race at 3-1 is Shakespeare, an impressive winner of his only start this year at Saratoga after missing the entire 2006 season.

Shakespeare, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Garrett Gomez, will begin from post 3.

Next in the line at 4-1 is Art Master, trained by Bobby Frankel, who ended up second to Shakespeare as the odds-on choice last time out.

Julien Leparoux takes over aboard Art Master, who will start from posto11. Art Master breezed four furlongs in 50.10 seconds at Belmont on Thursday morning.

Becrux, who shipped in from California to win last year's Woodbine Mile for trainer Neil Drysdale at 8-1, is the 5-1 third choice here and will start from post 2 under David Flores.

Locally based Le Cinquieme Essai, who defeated Becrux in the Play the King here last summer but missed the Woodbine Mile because of injury, won the Play the King again this year in just his second start of the season.

Trained by Paul Nielsen and to be ridden by Steven Bahen, Le Cinquieme Essai is listed at 15-1 and will break from post 14.

"I don't like it, but I'm stuck with it," said Nielsen. "I guess we'll keep out of trouble out there."