07/19/2007 12:00AM

Le Cinquieme Essai in spotlight off layoff


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai is 8 years old and hasn't raced in 11 months but still merits top billing in Saturday's supporting feature at Woodbine, the $75,000 Ontario Jockey Club.

"He's ready, and I thought it would be a very good starting point for him," said Paul Nielsen, who trains Le Cinquieme Essai for owner and breeder Bill Scott.

The Ontario Jockey Club, a seven-furlong overnight turf stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds and up, has drawn an interesting field of 10.

The best in-form stakes horse in the lineup is Raw Power, a 7-year-old gelding who comes off a fourth-place finish here in the Grade 2 King Edward over 1 1/8 miles of turf. Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya, the two-three finishers in that race, are the favorites for Sunday's Gradeo2, $700,000 Northern Dancer.

Raw Power, owned by Minshall Farm and trained by Barbara Minshall, finished second in last year's Ontario Jockey Club behind Millfleet, who is looking for a repeat win Sunday, but is highly unlikely to succeed in his current form.

Up-and-comers in the mix include Sterwins and Ju Ju Beast.

Sterwins, runner-up in last year's Queen's Plate, is making his turf debut and his first start for trainer Malcolm Pierce.

Ju Ju Beast, a 5-year-old trained by Josie Carroll, is on the rise, having won his last two turf starts - a $40,000 conditioned claimer and a first-level allowance.

But the spotlight is on Le Cinquieme Essai, who finished third in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile here in 2005 and was slated for a return engagement in that $1 million turf race last year after winning the Grade 2 Play the King over seven furlongs of turf.

While prepping for the Woodbine Mile, Le Cinquieme Essai came up with a slight tear in a suspensory ligament and was put away for the season.

Becrux, who finished second to Le Cinquieme Essai in the Play the King, went on to win the Woodbine Mile.

Nielsen, however, is just happy that Le Cinquieme Essai recovered fully and is working well for his return. Le Cinquieme Essai had a final tune-up with a five-furlong drill of 1:01.80 over the training track turf course on Sunday.

"He went really wide around both turns," said Nielsen. "It was nothing fancy; we just wanted to get some air into him.

Steven Bahen retains the mount on Le Cinquieme Essai, who has won 11 of 27 starts while finishing in the money 20 times and banking $1,269,753.