07/17/2002 11:00PM

'Essai' surprise for his jockey

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Brian Bochinski was hoping to have a little fun when he went to Woodbine to ride Le Cinquieme Essai in a turf allowance race July 7.

Le Cinquieme Essai was coming off a 7 3/4-length score in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Fort Erie a month earlier.

"I've always liked the horse, but I really thought I was in for a tough battle," said Bochinski, who has 1,693 lifetime wins heading into Saturday's card.

Bochinski need not have worried. Despite post 12 and a wide trip, Le Cinquieme Essai was a handy winner by 5 1/4 lengths over a mile on grass.

"I never thought we could win that easy. And never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be here," said Bochinski, after Le Cinquieme Essai drew post 11 for Sunday's Prince of Wales Stakes, the $500,000 second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown.

The Prince of Wales will be the first assignment for Bochinski in a Canadian classic. A 35-year-old Winnipeg native, he is currently in sixth place in the Fort Erie standings. Last year, he was the second-leading rider at the Fort.

After winning the riding title three times at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs, Bochinski competed on the Alberta circuit for four years before setting up shop at Woodbine in 1996. In 2000, he moved his tack to Fort Erie.

Le Cinquieme Essai is the only Fort Erie-based runner in the field of 12 for the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales. With the exception of Fuzzy Star, who is based at Delaware Park, the others are from Toronto.

The Prince of Wales will be televised nationally in Canada, by Sportsnet, and Le Cinquieme Essai not only will have fan support here but also in western Canada, where there are other connections.

Bill Scott of Calgary, Alberta, bred and owns Le Cinquieme Essai. Scott is an oilman and rancher who has dabbled with Thoroughbreds for 25 years.

Karen Ross, wife of Le Cinqueime Essai's trainer, Paul Nielsen, is from Edmonton. She had a brief stint as a jockey but turned to exercising horses. Nielsen met her seven years ago at Payson Park in Florida, where he usually takes a small band of horses for winter training.

"Karen is a beautiful rider," said Nielsen. "She has brought a lot of talent and experience to the barn."

Nielsen is best known as the trainer of Hope for a Breeze, winner of Woodbine's 1992 Canadian Oaks. While Bochinski was bowled over by Le Cinquieme Essai's rout of the Woodbine runners, Nielsen was not.

"He's coming around at the right time. I knew he had a lot of raw talent," said Nielsen. "And he was training well at Payson Park. We gelded him in March, and then gave him time.

"The Plate horses didn't look overpowering," added Nielsen. "I think it's an open race. They have a little more seasoning, but on the other hand we have a very fresh horse. And he's happy and he's sound."

Le Cinquieme Essai finished fourth, then second in his two 2001 starts.

* Jockey Randi Melton scored her first win of 2002 in the first race here Wednesday. It was her 36th start of the year. The winner, Case of Pride, was from the Mark Casse barn. Melton, a step-sister to Casse, was born in Ocala, Florida, and can only ride for American owners while in Canada.

* Rui Pimentel has shifted from Woodbine to join the jockey colony at Fort Erie. Pimentel, the Sovereign Award-winning apprentice of 1997, has just five wins this year.