07/15/2004 11:00PM

Homecoming for Le Cinquieme Essai

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai, one of Fort Erie's most celebrated runners, returns Sunday to headline the International Turf Cup, one of two $100,000, 1 1/16-mile turf stakes that are supporting attractions to the main feature, the $500,000 Prince of Wales.

The other stakes is the Ernie Samuel Memorial, for fillies and mares. Both are restricted to Canadian-breds.

Le Cinquieme Essai, trained by Paul Nielsen, won the 2002 edition of the Prince of Wales after sitting out the Queen's Plate. At year's end, he was voted a Sovereign Award as Canada's champion 3-year-old colt or gelding.

Until this year, Fort Erie was home for Le Cinquieme Essai. But Nielsen took him to Woodbine, thinking that Le Cinquieme Essai, now a grass specialist, would have more opportunities there on his preferred surface.

Le Cinquieme Essai has run twice this year, both times at Woodbine, but has been unlucky, said Nielsen. In his last race, the Grade 3 Connaught Cup, Le Cinquieme Essai's rally fell a nose short. He earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

"He was blocked by horses throughout the stretch," said Nielsen. "When he finally got an opening he missed second by a nose. This is a game of inches.

"He should have won his first start."

Nielsen said he was pleased with the condition of his runner and of the post, 6, that he drew in Sunday's 12-horse field. He also felt that Le Cinquieme Essai would thrive on the Fort's turf.

"The long stretch at Woodbine works a little against him," said Nielsen. "He handles the tight turns of the seven-furlong course at Fort Erie really well."

The main opposition to Le Cinquieme Essai appears to be Surging River, one of a trio of Sam-Son Farm turf runners in the race. The others are Puffer and Longship.

Surging River finished third in the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 19. He won his other 2004 start, an allowance on the grass at Woodbine, by almost two lengths.

Two Fort Erie-based runners, Brother Pat and Lenny the Lender, pose threats to the top pair.

Brother Pat finished just a neck behind Le Cinquieme Essai in the Puss N Boots here last year on Labor Day. That race also was at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

In his lone 2004 start, on June 28, Brother Pat finished second in an optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf here, a neck behind Hanlan.

Lenny the Lender finished fifth in the same contest, 3 1/2 lengths behind Hanlan.

Lenny the Lender's owner-trainer, Dick Jukosky, wasn't displeased with the effort of his runner, who had finished second in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap last fall at Woodbine.

"He just got too far behind," said Jukosky. "At the head of the stretch he was 14 lengths out of it."

Ginger Gold nears milestone

Ginger Gold, the Labatt Woodbine Oaks winner of 2002, heads the nine-horse Ernie Samuel Memorial, and a victory would make her a millionaire. She has earnings of $979,048.

Ginger Gold began the season slowly, finishing out of the money in her first two starts. In her third and most recent start, she shipped from Woodbine to Fort Erie and responded with an eye-catching 8 1/4-length score.

Her Beyer Speed Figure for the race, at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt, was a career-best 97.

Clubay and Robotica both have won twice at this meet, but the Beyer Figures in their wins were on the low side. Clubay was given a 73 and a 74, Robotica a 63 and a 62.