09/05/2003 12:00AM

Powell: 'Wolfie' okay

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Owner-trainer Gina Powell was surprised last Monday when her Get Down Wolfie, dueling for the lead, fell out of contention in the Puss N Boots Stakes entering the stretch. At the end, he finished in front of only two runners, 11 lengths behind the winner, Le Cinquieme Essai.

Powell's first inclination was that her horse might have suffered an injury. But that wasn't so, she found out back at the barn later.

"Wolfie is as sound as any horse in America," Powell said. "And he's so good, right now I felt he couldn't lose."

Get Down Wolfie was seeking to repeat his triumph in last year's edition of the 1 1/16-mile Puss N Boots at Fort Erie. Powell had planned a whole year in an attempt to have it happen.

When races couldn't be found here and at Woodbine for Get Down Wolfie to run in, Powell trucked the runner to Kentucky and then to Maryland for races. Decent finishes - a fourth, and a third, against tough allowance and stakes caliber runners - indicated readiness. Powell beamed confidence.

Powell blamed Monday's debacle on the ride.

"It's not the first time a trainer has been unhappy with a ride," Powell said. "What it boils down to - whether it's a good ride or not - [Francine Villeneuve] just doesn't get along with the horse.

"I'm a big believer in a jockey and horse combination, a really big believer," Powell said. "Wolfie is very temperamental, and he just didn't like her."

Villeneuve said she is aware of the criticism but declined comment.

Powell is eying an optional claimer at Woodbine for Get Down Wolfie's next start, in two weeks. She's also looking south of the border, to Kentucky Downs, for another option.

Le Cinquieme Essai's win keeps him racing

Trainer Paul Nielsen praised Neil Poznansky's front-running ride aboard Puss N Boots winner, Le Cinquieme Essai.

"It was beautiful," he said. "Neil let him do his thing. I thought he would be laying back about third. But Neil said he had all kinds of horse."

Le Cinquieme Essai, which in French means "The Fifth Try," scored his first win this year in the Puss N Boots. It followed four defeats.

Le Cinquieme Essai was last year's Canadian champion 3-year-old male. The gelding became a stakes winner in the Prince of Wales here in his fifth lifetime outing.

Had Le Cinquieme Essai not performed well in the Puss N Boots he would have been put away for the year, Nielsen said. The horse, he said, now seems to have regained the confidence, which he lost competing earlier this year in graded stakes against Woodbine heavy hitters such as Perfect Soul and Strut the Stage.

Villeneuve climbs in jockey rankings

Villeneuve, 39, the winningest woman rider in Canadian history, climbed into a fourth-place tie with Brian Bochinski in the jockey standings here last week. The highlight in her week was her triumph aboard Soon to Be Single in the Miss Moneypenny Stakes on the holiday card.

Martin Ramirez continues to lead the riders. Neil Poznansky is second, and Chris Griffith third.

Dan Boudreau, ninth in the rider rankings, has had his apprenticeship extended by the Ontario Racing Commission to Nov. 28. Boudreau plans to ride at Woodbine on Fort Erie dark days, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.