08/24/2006 12:00AM

'Le Cinquieme' needs a win


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Le Cinquieme Essai will try to put an end to his string of second-place finishes Saturday at Woodbine in the Grade 2, $200,000 Play the King Stakes.

The seven-furlong turf sprint, which is a prep for the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 17, has also attracted American shippers Becrux and Vicarage.

Le Cinquieme Essai ran a close second in the 2005 Play the King, and then ended up third behind Leroidesanimaux and Mobil in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

This year, Le Cinquieme Essai has been second in each of his three starts - the Grade 3 Connaught Cup, the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup, and most recently in the Sea O'Erin BC Handicap. In the Sea O'Erin, at Arlington, he surrendered a slim lead in deep stretch and was beaten a head.

Trainer Paul Nielsen said the trip to Arlington took a toll on Le Cinquieme Essai.

"It's not an easy ship to Chicago, and I thought he lost quite a bit of weight," Nielsen said. "I was going to skip the Play the King, but he's been doing exceptionally well since he got home. He's put on a ton of weight and is back in the groove again. He had a good breeze on the grass last week. It was very firm, and we went very easy with him. It was strictly maintenance. He's in fine form."

Nielsen said he is hoping the Play the King will be a confidence-boosting experience for Le Cinquieme Essai.

"I shouldn't say it's going to come up light, but I think this race is a little easier than I thought it might be," Nielsen said. "He needs to win a race. It would do him a world of good."

Becrux, based at Del Mar with trainer Neil Drysdale, is coming off a victory in the one-mile Wickerr Handicap, which was his first start as a gelding. The runner-up, Stormin Away, returned to capture a listed stakes, and third-place finisher Unfurl the Flag won a $125,000 optional claimer on Wednesday.

If Becrux puts forth a solid effort on Saturday, Drysdale said he would likely run back in the Woodbine Mile, a race Drysdale has won twice.

"He came out of his last race well, and he's been training well," Drysdale said.

Vicarage is a dirt specialist trained by Todd Pletcher, North America's leading trainer in money won. The last time Vicarage tried the grass, he wound up third in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap at Belmont on July 2.