07/16/2008 11:00PM

Le Cinquieme Essai, 9, starts his year


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai just keeps on rolling.

Now 9 years old, Le Cinquieme Essai will make his season debut here Saturday in the $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for 3-year-olds and upward.

If all goes according to plan, then the OJC will propel Le Cinquieme Essai toward a fourth consecutive appearance in the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong turf race that will be run here Aug. 23.

Le Cinquieme Essai, owned and bred by Bill Scott and trained by Paul Nielsen, ran third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in 2005 following a second-place finish in that year's Play the King. He won the 2006 Play the King that August, then was off until his 2007 debut in the OJC, where he finished third behind winner Awesome Action.

Le Cinquieme Essai followed up that victory with his second straight win in the Play the King, but then finished 11th, beaten by six lengths, in the Woodbine Mile in his third and final start of last season.

"He bled in the Woodbine Mile," said Nielsen.

Later last fall, Le Cinquieme Essai left Woodbine for Nielsen's offseason base of Payson Park, just as he had done following each of his preceding campaigns.

"He started back in January," he said. "But he kept entrapping his epiglottis, which at his age is incredible. He had to go for throat surgery, and everything's been all right since then.

"He's healthy now, and doing well. Physically, we feel he looks better than he did last year."

Jockey Steven Bahen, who has ridden Le Cinquieme Essai in his last 17 starts dating back to the beginning of his 2004 campaign, retains the mount.

Awesome Action, another venerable campaigner at age 8, will be competing in the OJC for the fifth consecutive year.

Awesome Action won the 2004 and 2007 runnings of the OJC and finished third in each of his other appearances in the race. He is owned by a partnership that includes the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie Curtis Joseph plus Joseph's wife, Nancy; his agent, Don Meehan; and trainer Sue Leslie.

In two tries this year, Awesome Action ran third in the prep for the Highlander and sixth in the stakes itself, with both races at six furlongs on turf.

Robert Landry, who has ridden Awesome Action in 40 of his 46 outings and 8 of his 10 career victories, will be aboard Sunday.

Looking to upstage his elders in the OJC will be Ice Bear, a 4-year-old turf specialist who is fighting fit following a season-opening win under third-level allowance terms and a game second-place finish behind Royal Oath in the Grade 2 King Edward.

"He just finished second to a very good horse going a mile and an eighth," said Mac Benson, who trains Ice Bear for owner/breeder George Strawbridge Jr. "I always thought he was a very good seven-eighths-of-a-mile to a mile horse, and he's doing real good."

Corey Fraser, who has taken over as Ice Bear's pilot this season, will be back in the irons on Saturday.

Connections returns for Bold Venture

Arlington shippers have fared well here, with Cloudy's Knight and Secret Getaway being the most notable recent examples.

Connections shipped in from Chicago last year and finished third in the Kennedy Road prep, then returned to win the Kennedy Road itself three weeks later, and he looks to duplicate that pattern when he runs here Sunday in the $150,000 Bold Venture for 3-year-olds and upward.

After finishing fifth in the Ken Boynes Memorial at Presque Isle Downs on June 1, Connections returned to Arlington and then shipped here for a third-place finish in the six-furlong allowance prep for the Bold Venture.

On Saturday, Connections is scheduled to check back in from his home base along with Last Gran Standing, another Bold Venture candidate, and Stop a Train, whose target is Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.

Last Gran Standing will be ridden by Michael Douglas, and Emma-Jayne Wilson has picked up the mount on Stop a Train and will retain the mount on Connections, whom she rode for the first time in the Bold Venture prep.

Athena's Gift takes trip to Virginia

Wilson and trainer Malcolm Pierce will be at Colonial Downs on Saturday with Athena's Gift, who makes her stakes debut in the Grade 3, $200,000 Virginia Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Athena's Gift, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old owned by Richard Lister, has won her last two starts here, taking her maiden at one mile on turf and a first-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles on the same course.

"We've been looking for a spot to run her," said Pierce. "She's American-bred, and there's nothing for her here until the Ontario Colleen, which may be too short for her."

The $150,000 Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies, will be run Aug. 30.

Pierce will be making his first visit to Colonial Downs, but had a winner there in 2000 when the 3-year-old filly Love Kiss captured the Tippett.

Piper in the Glen upsets Deputy Minister

Piper in the Glen, the 9-1 outsider in a four-horse race, overtook 2-5 favorite Stuck in Traffic in the final strides to win the $125,000 Deputy Minister Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds here Wednesday night.

Piper in the Glen, based at Fort Erie with trainer Zeljko Krcmar, trailed the tightly bunched field heading into the turn.

Stuck in Traffic set a moderate pace before putting away Delaforce in the stretch, but Piper in the Glen came charging on the outside and prevailed by neck in 1:24.30 for the seven furlongs.

It was the first stakes victory for Fort Erie's leading rider, Chad Beckon.

"I noticed that [David Clark] on Stuck in Traffic tried to slow the pace down at the five-eighths pole," said Beckon. "I eased my horse back at the three-eighths pole and let them bunch up. I gave them some daylight, and then went on and made the best of it."

Piper in the Glen ($20.40) banked $78,750 in his first stakes score for owner Jesse Self. Delaforce finished third.

* Trainer Michael Doyle scored a hat trick on Wednesday's card with Miss Ollie ($4.80), Classy Landlady ($7.40), and Critical Path ($27.90).

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink