08/20/2008 11:00PM

Primed to pull off three-peat

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The venerable 9-year-old Le Cinquieme Essai will try to win the $200,000 Play the King Stakes for the third straight year Saturday at Woodbine.

Le Cinquieme Essai narrowly lost the 2005 Play the King, but he more than made up for it by winning the last two runnings of the seven-furlong turf sprint, both with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure.

Le Cinquieme Essai went to the sidelines after ending up 11th in last year's Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in September. Trainer Paul Nielsen said Le Cinquieme Essai underwent throat surgery last winter in Florida.

"He had an entrapped epiglottis," Nielsen said. "We had no choice but to do surgery on him, and that's helped him. He seems a lot more relaxed. Everything's worked out pretty good."

Le Cinquieme Essai got up for second when he returned from a 10-month layoff July 19 in the seven-furlong Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, much to the delight of Nielsen.

"I thought he was going to be fifth," said Nielsen. "He had a small traffic issue, and then he punched home pretty good. I was happy with the way he came out of the race and how he's gone forward since then. He should be perfect."

The Grade 2 Play the King is a prep for the Woodbine Mile in two weeks, but Nielsen said Le Cinquieme Essai isn't under consideration for that $1 million event.

Trainer Ian Black said an outstanding performance from Wollemi Pine on Saturday could earn the 4-year-old gelding a berth in the Mile.

Wollemi Pine has won 3 of 5 this year, including the 6 1/2-furlong allowance prep for the Play the King.

"He really seems to have improved from 3 to 4," said Black. "He's been running very consistently. I hope that the seven furlongs is better for him than six and a half. I'm very happy with the way he's been training. He's in good order."

There are four American shippers in the lineup, including the Godolphin Racing-owned duo of Tam Lin and Emirates to Dubai. Both are trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

Tam Lin, a Group 3 winner in England, has performed strongly this year at Belmont, where he upset Cosmonaut in the Scottish Monk Stakes in June. He was recently second behind 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap.

Emirates to Dubai won the six-furlong Red Wing Dream Stakes at Belmont in his next-to-last start.