05/28/2004 12:00AM

Le Cinquieme Essai looking sharper


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai was Canada's champion 3-year-old male in 2002. Last year, he found the going much tougher.

But by finishing a troubled but encouraging third in his 2004 bow, Le Cinquieme Essai served notice that he could regain much of his lost luster this season, with Sunday's Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles of turf a good starting point.

"Last year, he trained as well as he ever did," said Nielsen. "But it was pretty tough for him to top the year he had before, when he was with his own kind."

Owned and bred by Bill Scott, Le Cinquieme Essai won Fort Erie's Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, and $412,410 during his 2002 Sovereign Award campaign.

But his production slipped sharply last year, as Le Cinquieme Essai earned $54,284, his only win from five starts coming in the Puss N Boots over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Fort Erie. In three stakes tries here over the E.P. Taylor turf course, the horse was able to finish no better than sixth.

Nielsen said that the Woodbine turf course turf "is pretty tough for him. The stretch is pretty long - that's always been a problem.

"A two-turn turf course suits him a lot better; he has tactical speed."

Nielsen does acknowledge that Le Cinquieme Essai's effort in the Connaught Cup prep, over a mile of the Taylor course here May 15, was a positive.

"I think he's matured," said Nielsen. "He ran a pretty good race the other day. He was unlucky not to finish second."

But at the same time, Nielsen warns that the timing of the Connaught Cup might not be ideal.

"To be honest, it's probably back a little quick for this individual horse, but there weren't a lot of options," said Nielsen. "I'll probably try him again this year on dirt, but I think he prefers grass.

"Soft grass, really, is his preference."

Optimistic about Miss Filibuster

Nielsen is also looking for a better campaign from Miss Filibuster, a 4-year-old full sister to Le Cinquieme Essai who worked four furlongs in 49 seconds on the fast main track Friday morning.

"She did it great, and galloped out real well," said Nielsen, who has returned to Woodbine because of this year's shortened meeting at Fort Erie, where he had been based for the last seven years.

Miss Filibuster, also owned and bred by Scott, finished second in her debut at Fort Erie last June and later was awarded first money when the winner was declared to have been ineligible.

But Miss Filibuster wasn't heard from much in her next four starts before calling it a season.

"She was a little disappointing last year," said Nielsen. "I was expecting a few more things from her. But when she ran the other day, she probably ran up to expectations."

That outing, Miss Filibuster's first of 2004, came in an entry-level allowance over six furlongs here May 15 that she won by 4 1/2 lengths.

"She probably wasn't beating much, but she did it very nicely," said Nielsen. "She's a little more mature. She was very good in the paddock, and at the gate, which have been issues with her in the past."

Perfect Soul passing on Connaught Cup

Perfect Soul, Canada's Sovereign Award-winning turf male last year, is not among the Connaught Cup participants.

Roger Attfield, who trains Perfect Soul for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, had considered including the Connaught Cup in the horse's program. But he did not even nominate Perfect Soul to the race after the horse bruised a foot and missed several days of training.

For a time, it was feared that the situation was more serious than originally supposed, and Perfect Soul underwent a battery of tests before being cleared for a return to action.

"It was a false alarm," said Attfield, whose next target for Perfect Soul remains the Grade 2, $300,000 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf here June 19.

"It's three weeks to the King Edward, and he was a dead-fit horse in the first place."

Miss Grindstone named top claimer

Miss Grindstone, a 5-year-old mare owned and trained by John Cardella, will be honored as the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club's claimer of the year.

The racing club's annual awards day, celebrating the best of Woodbine racing in 2003, will be held here on Sunday, June 20.

Others to be honored include Todd Kabel, leading jockey; Julia Brimo, leading apprentice jockey; Bob Tiller, leading trainer; and Stronach Stable, leading owner.

Kabel, Brimo, Tiller, and Stronach Stable also were winners of their respective Sovereign Award categories but the racing club's claimer of the year award has no Sovereign equivalent.

Miss Grindstone won 4 of her 8 starts last year, her victories coming for claiming prices ranging from $45,000 to $62,500.

Overall, Miss Grindstone has won 10 of 19 career races, losing two straight only once but never recording back-to-back victories until she won her 2003 finale and 2004 seasonal bow.

The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club, formed in the early 1960's, has a membership of approximately 150 and meets at Woodbine on one Wednesday evening during each month of the live racing season.