08/25/2005 12:00AM

Soaring Free looks for payback after loss


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Soaring Free will try to avenge his shocking recent loss in the restricted Ontario Jockey Club Stakes in the Grade 2 Play the King Handicap on Saturday at Woodbine.

The $230,800 event, a major prep for the Grade 1 Atto Mile on Sept. 18, has lured a strong 13-horse field set to go seven furlongs on the grass.

Soaring Free, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, landed a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the Shakertown and the Highlander, in his first two outings of the year. He was bet down to 1-9 in the seven-furlong OJC, but was beaten a half-length when second to Awesome Action, another Play the King contender.

Trainer Mark Frostad said Soaring Free displaced his palate in the OJC.

"It was something new for him," Frostad said. "He came out of that very quickly - we didn't need to operate or anything. He's been normal ever since. Hopefully, that was a one-time thing."

Other possibilities in the lineup include Le Cinquieme Essai, Fort Prado, Old Forester, My Lucky Strike, Frank's Selection, and Dalavin.

Le Cinquieme Essai, a dependable miler with 10 wins in 21 career starts, has won four in a row dating back to last fall, including three stakes.

Trainer Paul Nielsen said he isn't concerned with cutting Le Cinquieme Essai back to a long sprint.

"It doesn't bother me that much," Nielsen said. "He's probably at his best at a flat mile, but he has a little kick. This will be a tough spot for him, but I think he'll run competitively. He's in great shape, and he's fresh."

Chicago invader Fort Prado has also won his last four races, all at between a mile and 1 1/16 miles. Fort Prado took the one-mile Sea O'Erin BC Handicap three weeks ago at Arlington. Trained by Chris Block, he has never tried seven furlongs.

Old Forester, based in New York with trainer Bill Mott, was second in both the Grade 3 Jaipur at Belmont and the Grade 2 Firecracker BC Handicap at Churchill. Most recently, he came up empty as the heavy favorite in a $100,000 optional claimer at Saratoga.

My Lucky Strike and Frank's Selection ran one-two in the allowance prep for the Play the King, with My Lucky Strike setting the 6 1/2-furlong course record of 1:13.97.

Dalavin captured a seven-furlong optional claimer with ease on July 2, then had traffic problems and finished second to the gifted Royal Regalia in a recent classified allowance.