Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham hopes a couple of her runners can overcome this week's testing bushfire conditions - and some tricky barrier draws - when they line up at Grafton on Monday.
Graham could have up to five starters on the eight-race program - Magnalane (E&G Class 1), Sizzling Suzanne (F&M Class 1), first-starter Manly Hanover (Maiden Hcp), Foxy's Foxinator (Class 3 Hcp) and I Wanna Be A Jeep (Open Hcp).
Like many trainers throughout NSW this week, Graham is hoping the heavy smoke from the bushfires hasn't had a detrimental effect on her horses.
"The horses are going well enough and I'm very happy with them, but I'm just concerned how the heavy smoke from this week's bushfires has affected them all," said the trainer.
"We haven't had a problem so much with a fire threat where we are, but the smoke in the air this week has been bad and I've had to back off their work a little bit. How much it has affected them I just don't know and I guess I'm 'flying blind' a little going into Monday's meeting."
A couple of sticky gates for Foxy's Foxinator and I Wanna Be A Jeep haven't helped either.
Foxy's Foxinator, resuming in the Class 3 Hcp over 1410m, drew barrier 11 in the 12-horse field. The ever-consistent I Wanna Be A Jeep, having his first run at Grafton in almost three years, drew gate nine in the Open Hcp (1410m).
I Wanna Be A Jeep lines up for his third run this campaign and steps up to his pet distance after winning five of his nine previous starts over the 1400m.
A winner of six races and placed another 13 times in his 28-start career, I Wanna Be A Jeep resumed with a third to Dual Escape and Eye On America in the Denman Cup (1280m) at Muswellbrook on October 7 then last start finished second to Profiler in the Jungle Juice Cup (1350m) at Cessnock on October 28.
"He's very consistent and rarely runs a bad race, but he is much better suited on tighter tracks when he can 'skip off' the the turn," said Graham.
"The bigger tracks like Grafton don't suit him as much - that's why he hasn't run there for a couple of years."
I Wanna Be A Jeep had two starts at Grafton back in late 2016, winning his Maiden there over 1106m and finishing second two starts later in a Class 1.
Foxy's Foxinator has been another consistent performer for the Graham stable, winning twice and being placed six times from his 11 starts. He is resuming since May 15 when fifth behind Fun Fact in a 3YO Benchmark 68 over 1600m at Warwick Farm.
He geared up for Monday's return to racing with a solid effort in a very strong barrier trial at Newcastle on October 30, finishing fourth behind the likes of Graff, El Dorado Dreaming and Bon Amis.
"I thought he went very well in that trial and he does have a good fresh record," said Graham.
"I also accepted with him in a TAB Highway at Newcastle (on Saturday) but he didn't draw any better there either, so he'll go around at Grafton."
Foxy Foxinator has a win and two seconds from his three previous first-up runs. He kicked off his last campaign with a close second to Beach Baby over this same track and distance back in February.
I Wanna Be A Jeep runs second at Cessnock on October 28
Sizzling Suzanne, resuming since recording a strong win in a Port Macquarie Maiden over 1206m on April 26, fared better with the barrier draw in the F&M Class 1, coming up with gate five.
"She won her maiden quite well before a spell but it's been a bit hard to get a gauge on how she's going at the moment," said Graham.
"But she will get right down in the weights on Monday after the 4kg claim (for Jacob Golden)."
Graham expects first-starter Manly Hanover to be better for the experience on Monday and is unsure if Magnalane will run at Grafton or be saved for Taree on Tuesday.
"I think this race will be a bit of learning curve for Manly Hanover and I'm not sure where Magnalane will run. Taree was more likely but he drew wide there, so I'll have a chat with his owner."
Punters will have a bit of a 'guessing game' on their hands in the opening race at Grafton on Monday when the six runners tackle the 'two mile' Benchmark 66 Hcp.
All runners are obviously unknown quantities over the marathon 3146m with topweight Rage Against, Catch Me Latar and last-start winners Humility and Privately Epic likely to be vying for favouritism.
Privately Epic bolted in with a Class 1 over 2220m at Grafton on November 6 while Humility also romped home over 2650m in a Benchmark 66 at Ballina on November 4.