10/09/2002 11:00PM

Freeze Alert breaks ice for returning trainer

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Freeze Alert shipped in from Delaware Park and captured a $10,000 starter allowance race at Fort Erie on Tuesday.

Freeze Alert, a 5-year-old horse, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.63, the second-fastest time for the distance at the meet. It was a great homecoming for Freeze Alert's trainer, Deborah Simpson, who left Fort Erie seven years ago to take a break from a training career filled with highs and lows.

Simpson originally went to New Orleans but ended up at Delaware Park, where she galloped horses for trainer Frank Passero Jr. Then, with an occasional claimed horse, she was training again. Jason Sharpe, a $7,500 claim, won nine races for her in about three years.

"I learned to train right here," said Simpson, a St. Catharines, Ontario, native. "I worked for David Cross and other big boys many moons ago. I galloped Sunny's Halo as a 2-year-old."

Freeze Alert was moved into Simpson's Delaware barn this summer by owner John Butler.

"John races out of Boston but he has several trainers throughout the United States," Simpson said. "We're friends. He wanted to see Fort Erie, and what it was like, and they weren't writing races for us at Delaware Park."

Simpson was pleased with the ride apprentice Kris Robinson executed aboard Freeze Alert, coming from behind. "This horse is no good on the lead - he gets bored," Simpson said.

The win was one of three victories that Robinson had on the program. Robinson, who loses his bug Nov. 7, now has 60 victories at Fort Erie this year, and is in fifth place in the standings. Entering Saturday, his mounts have earned $1,058,997.

Millionaires aplenty

With five weeks remaining in the meet, seven jockeys here have surpassed $1 million in purse earnings. In each of the last two years, only three riders were able to reach that plateau.

Chris Griffith, with $1,799,997, leads the pack in money earned but trails Martin Ramirez by four in races won.

Equipment adjustment does trick

Prince of Wales victor Le Cinquieme Essai, has moved back into contention for Canadian 3-year-old championship honors. He won a tough optional claimer on the turf at Woodbine last Saturday against eight older runners.

The gelded Le Cinquieme Essai is 4 for 5 this year and his trainer, Paul Nielsen, believes his sole loss in Woodbine's Colonel R.S. McLaughlin Handicap was the result of a entrapped tongue. Le Cinquieme Essai turned in a dull effort in that race and finished a distant last.

Wearing a tongue strap for the first time, Le Cinquieme Essai led all the way last week while repulsing several challenges.

"He's still learning," Nielsen said. "He was looking around. But I really think he had to gut it out to win. I gained more respect for him. He ran darn hard and gutsy."

Nielsen added that Le Cinquieme Essai will have one more start this year, probably in the Nov. 3 Labeeb at one mile on the grass at Woodbine.