09/15/2005 12:00AM

Le Cinquieme Essai peaking for Atto

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai had a change of pace here Thursday morning at Woodbine when he galloped over the main track in preparation for Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million .

"Most of the time he goes to the training track very, very early," said Paul Nielsen, who trains Le Cinquieme Essai for owner and breeder Bill Scott. "I wanted him to have a little open gallop over the main track this morning and have a look around. Then he did his posing for the press, and came home."

Nielsen and Kelly Carroll, who grooms Le Cinquieme Essai, both insist that the "posing" part of the story is no exaggeration.

"He loves to pose," said Carroll.

And it's safe to say that the connections of Le Cinquieme Essai would like nothing better than to let the gelding indulge himself by posing in the winner's circle following the Atto Mile.

"He couldn't be better," said Nielsen. "I feel good about running him. I'm never really confident, and I'm never really happy, but I'm confident and happy about running him here."

Le Cinquieme Essai had his final Atto Mile tuneup last Saturday, going four furlongs in 48 seconds on the turf training course with Nielsen's wife and assistant, Karen, in the irons.

"It was a nice breeze - not too fast, and he galloped out perfect," said Nielsen.

"He's in perfect shape."

Le Cinquieme Essai was Canada's champion 3-year-old male and winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes and three other races in 2002.

While Le Cinquieme Essai won stakes in each of his next two campaigns he did not become a graded stakes winner until this May, when he won the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles on turf here in his 2005 debut.

Le Cinquieme Essai has started only twice since, with both starts on the grass.

After defeating overmatched rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial at Fort Erie, Le Cinquieme Essai ran second, beaten a head, at Woodbine in the Grade 2 Play the King Handicap at seven furlongs.

Those two starts produced the highest Beyer Speed Figures of Le Cinquieme Essai's career, which could suggest that the 6-year-old gelding is suddenly an improved performer.

Nielsen agrees that Le Cinquieme Essai is in career form.

"He's just maturing," said Nielsen. "Mentally, he's a different horse. He's just become a total professional racehorse. He's very intelligent."

Steven Bahen, who took over as Le Cinquieme Essai's rider at the beginning of 2004, will be aboard for the 10th straight time in the Atto Mile.

"He's a bit of a headstrong horse, a free-running horse," said Nielsen. "Stevie knows him well. He's getting him to relax, more and more. He doesn't fight him."

Bahen will be seeking his second victory in a $1 million race. He won the 2002 Queen's Plate aboard 82-1 shot T J's Lucky Moon.

Nielsen, who had said Friday morning that he was hoping for a post position of 7 or higher in the Atto Mile, got his wish when Le Cinquieme Essai drew post 8 in a field of nine.

Canadian, Summer draw nine-horse fields

The Canadian Handicap and Summer Stakes, Grade 2 turf races on the Atto Mile undercard, also attracted fields of nine.

The field for the $336,000 Canadian, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares, includes U.S. shippers Spotlight, Shaconage, and Natalie Beach.

Shaconage, trained in Kentucky by Mitch Shirota, arrived at Woodbine Thursday morning after about a 12-hour van ride.

Accompanying Shaconage was stablemate Salty Surprise, a 2-year-old filly who is entered in Sunday's fourth race here, and groom Cesar Mereles.

Shaconage will be ridden by Brice Blanc, who won the Grade 2 Niagara Handicap with Revved Up here Sept. 5.

Spotlight, trained by Christophe Clement, and Natalie Beach, trained by Jimmy Toner, have been based at Belmont.

Clement won the 2002 Canadian with Calista.

Completing the field are Woodbine-based Classic Stamp, the defending champion in the Canadian, plus Ambitious Cat, Black Rock Road, Noble Stella, Mona Rose, and Velvet Snow.

The $283,500 Summer, a mile turf race for 2-year-olds, attracted six shippers, including the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Baur Au Lac and Wedding Singer, both of whom have been based at Saratoga.

Pletcher won last year's Summer with Dubleo and the 2002 running with Lismore Knight.

Also coming up from New York are Kid Carousel, trained by Randy Schulhofer; Smoke Em Again, trained by Graham Motion; and Pallister Park, trained by Jon Dailey.

Santiago Star, an English runner trained by Andrew Balding, checked in to Woodbine earlier this week.

Local runners Bear's Kid, Badge of Truth, and Thunder Bowl are also in the Summer.