05/11/2006 11:00PM

La Trillium to get Nielsen in action

Michael Burns Photography
Jambalaya is aiming for the Connaught Cup on May 28.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Paul Nielsen is back at Woodbine, following a winter at Payson Park and a stopover in Keeneland.

Nielsen's campaign here will begin in earnest on Sunday, when he sends out La Trillium in the Grade 3, 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie for fillies and mares.

"She's in good shape. I'm pretty happy with her," said Nielsen, who trains La Trillium for Jasmine Stable.

"It's a tough spot, but I don't think she's totally over her head. I think the 6 1/2 furlongs will help her, and an off track would help her."

La Trillium, a 6-year-old, did not see action until June of her 4-year-old season and has started a total of nine times in her two campaigns.

"She actually had a good winter - she put on a lot of weight," said Nielsen. "She had some terrific breezes at Payson, and one at Keeneland."

La Trillium has run her best races coming off the shelf.

"When she's fresh, she really runs very, very well," Nielsen acknowledged.

In her belated debut, here in June of 2004, La Trillium won a seven-furlong maiden special by 11 1/2 lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99, which remains the best of her career.

Last June, La Trillium opened her campaign by making her turf debut in a third-level allowance over one mile and dead-heated for the top spot, earning a Beyer Figure of 94, which is her second best.

Still, Nielsen has made a couple of changes that he hopes will benefit La Trillium this time around.

"I've taken her off Lasix," said Nielsen. "I don't think it totally agreed with her."

La Trillium also will have a new rider, Jim McKnight.

Sister Star pointed for Nassau

Nielsen hoped to have one starter at Keeneland, as Sister Star, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old mare, was entered in a third-level allowance over one mile of turf on April 27.

"She ended up with a bit of an inflamed suspensory, and I scratched her," said Nielsen, whose first major target for Sister Star is the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau over one mile of turf here June 3.

Nielsen's stay at Keeneland served another purpose, however, as he was able to train his horses over the synthetic surface of Polytrack.

Woodbine will be replacing its dirt track with a Polytrack surface this summer. Nielsen is particularly interested in that development with regard to Le Cinquieme Essai, a turf specialist who has no love for the main track here.

"It might open up a new dimension for him," said Nielsen, who trains Le Cinquieme Essai for owner-breeder Bill Scott.

Le Cinquieme Essai, a 7-year-old gelding, is slated to make his seasonal bow here May 28 in the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race that will be the first turf stakes of the meeting.

The Connaught Cup would be Le Cinquieme Essai's first appearance since the Grade 1 Atto Mile, where he finished third behind the formidable Leroidesanimaux here last Sept. 18.

"He came out of the Atto Mile with a little bit of high suspensory inflammation," said Nielsen. "We gave him three and a half months off, and he's been winding up ever since. "He's doing very, very well. He had a very good winter.

"He thinks he's very young, he's very healthy, and he just has a terrific attitude."

Le Cinquieme Essai captured the Connaught Cup in his first start last year and finished second in the race, beaten a nose, after tuning up in the Connaught Cup prep in 2004.

Connaught Cup prep may go to dirt

Nielsen had considered entering Le Cinquieme Essai in this year's Connaught Cup prep but, after conferring with Scott, elected to await the big dance.

The point may prove to be moot, however, as the one-mile Connaught Cup prep, scheduled to be the first turf race of the season here Sunday, is in dire danger of being switched to one mile and 70 yards on the main track because of recent rains and more in the forecast.

Eleven horses, including two also-eligibles, were entered for the $87,900 prep.

Jambalaya, runner-up to stablemate A Bit O'Gold in the voting for champion male turf horse last year, is slated to make his seasonal bow in the prep, and his trainer, Catherine Day Phillips, is hoping the race can go as scheduled.

"I don't think we'd run on the dirt," said Day Phillips. "I don't think it's fair to him. At this point, I don't want to muck up his campaign.

"I didn't expect to have him ready for the prep, so it would have been a bonus, anyway. It means we'll have to go into the Connaught without a race, which is not ideal, but it's still better for him."

Day Phillips also has a candidate for the Nassau in Invitational, a 4-year-old filly who became a stakes winner in her last start, the Oct. 23 Carotene here.

Turf schedule set

The full turf racing schedule is slated to begin on Saturday, May 27. Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary, said the general plan will call for three grass races on Saturdays and Sundays; two on Wednesdays, Fridays, and holiday Mondays; and one on Thursdays.

A restricted turf training session for Connaught Cup and Nassau nominees is scheduled for Sunday, May 21. The regular turf training sessions are to begin Wednesday, May 24.

* Wednesday night racing will be televised for the first time this year this week when "Race Night on the Score" airs from 7:30 to 10 p.m.