10/09/2003 11:00PM

Pampering paid off with Major Zee

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Ten-year-old Major Zee, after being shut out in his six 2002 starts, has once again found his way to the winner's circle.

On Tuesday, Major Zee scored for the fourth time since he began his new season five starts ago on July 28. Mark Fournier, who was licensed as a trainer just last October, is the one who has put the gelding on the right path.

Fournier, a 32-year-old native of nearby Welland, was offered Major Zee to train early in the year. Major Zee had wintered on a farm and had been off for six months.

Fournier, who has spent more than 12 years in the trenches as a hot-walker, groom, and part-owner, called Major Zee "probably one of the most body-sore horses I ever worked with. I was told to take my time with him.

"Basically, I jogged him and worked on him - did body massage, and had him in an ice tub two hours a day. I pampered him and did lots of grooming, and he came around."

Major Zee started the present campaign at the $5,000 claiming level. Tuesday, he won for $14,000.

"He's a very confident runner now," said Fournier, who joined the racetrack life working for trainer Lyle Morden, who is his cousin.

In his hot-walking days, Fournier co-owned with Morden a runner named Sectron.

"Sectron was a little sore when we got him," said Fournier. "We gave him time off, did some work on him, and he went on to win 10 races for us."

Fournier did work stints with trainers Karl Frayne and Joshua Robillard, who was a boyhood friend. In the winters, he often worked as a groom for Standardbreds.

In 2003, Fournier sports a record of 5 wins from 18 starts.

Divided front for Newell

Trainer Mike Newell has usually been productive at the Fort Erie meet. Last year he registered 24 wins, the year before 35.

With just a month remaining in the 2003 meet, Newell has only 11 wins here, primarily because he has changed his way of operating.

Newell formed two divisions in 2003, one here and one at Thistledown in Cleveland.

"We started out in the spring doing well at Cleveland," said Newell. "So we left 15 down there for the summer, and now we have 25 there.

"We haven't had a ton of success here this year, but we have been fairly successful in Cleveland."

As of Wednesday, Newell had 21 wins at Thistledown, good for 11th place in the standings.

Newell, who bought and sold show horses before he entered racing, also wheels and deals with his racing stock. Plus, he does a little bit of breeding.

Much of Newell's stock has been cheap this year and wasn't quite competitive enough at the Fort. That prompted the foray to Cleveland.

"We sold some horses, and we lost many through the claiming box," said Newell. "It has been a successful venture and we may do it again next year."

Le Cinquieme Essai likely for Labeeb

Fort Erie-based Le Cinquieme Essai, who was Canada's top male 3-year-old last year, will probably make his next start in the Labeeb Stakes at Woodbine Nov. 2.

Le Cinquieme Essai won the Puss N Boots Stakes here Sept. 1 and has been idle since.

"We took him to race at Woodbine," said trainer Paul Nielsen, "but the race was taken off the grass and we scratched. There doesn't seem to be anywhere to race him besides the Labeeb.

"He's in great shape now. He really is. He's as good now as he has ever been."