Grafton galloper Knight Templar's previous trip to Port Macquarie back in June didn't work out as planned, but trainer Jason Reilly thinks the eight-year-old is primed to make amends when he returns to the track for Thursday's Schweppes Handicap (1200m).
Knight Templar was allotted the 61kg topweight in Thursday's sprint, but Reilly has booked 2kg-claiming apprentice Olivia Pickering to ease the burden.
Reilly last ventured to Port Macquarie with Knight Templar back on June 26 when he started the $6.50 second favourite in the June Sprint (1108m) but ran a disappointing 10th behind Epic Dan.
"Nothing went right that day," explained Reilly.
"He got poleaxed early and the track was a soft 7 and very shifty by the time they ran his race which was the last race on the program.
"He had genuine excuses that day, but he did win well at his only other previous run at Port Macquarie (in May of 2017)."
Knight Templar tackles Thursday's race at this third run back from a spell with Reilly opting for the Port Macquarie race instead of saving him for a Murwillumbah Open Hcp over 1100m on Friday.
Knight Templar runs fourth at Grafton on October 8
"I nominated him for the Murwillumbah on Friday, but I thought the Port Macquarie race looked slightly easier," said Reilly.
Knight Templar has been winless in 10 starts so far in 2018, but he has gone close in several runs, including a massive effort as a $51 chance when second to Difficult To Get in the $100,000 Tab.com.au Sprint (1100m) at Rosehill back on January 27.
"His last win was back in December, but he's run some really good races since then. His Sydney run was terrific and he's also been narrowly beaten in a couple more," said Reilly.
Reilly was delighted with Knight Templar's last-start fourth behind Landmarks, Clang's Victory and Lucky Meteor in the Jacaranda Prelude (1100m) at Grafton on October 30 and believes the gelding is primed to run a big race on Thursday at his third run back from a spell.
"He probably spelled a little too well and it's taken just a little longer than expected to get him fit," said the trainer.
"His last run at Grafton was very good and he was really hitting the line strongly. I'll leave the riding tactics from barrier nine up to Olivia - she can either good forward if necessary or take a sit."
Knight Templar's main rivals on Thursday look to be the Coffs Harbour mare Florelle and the consistent Wyong mare Penfold.
Reilly believes his other runner at the Port Macquarie meeting, the middle-distance mare Chantilly Chateau, is capable of running a bold race first-up over 1500m in the The Sandbox Benchmark 66 Hcp.
Chantilly Chateau won at her one previous Port Macquarie appearance, winning over 2018m three starts back on June 26 at the same meeting Knight Templar was unplaced in the June Sprint.
Chantilly Chateau is yet to place in six previous first-up runs but most of those fresh runs were over 1100m or 1200m.
"She did win second-up over 1400m last prep after resuming in an 1100m race," said Reilly. "First-up over the 1500m on Thursday she can run a cheeky race."
Leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees looks to hold a strong hand on the eight-race program with Charlie's Law and Magnolia Power (race one), Wild Sheila (race two), Exdream (race four), Angel Of Heaven (race six) and Total Power, Fearless Al and Off The Dial (race eight).
Angel Of Heaven, a winner on debut at Scone on October 26, is a real 'blue blood'. She is a three-year-old filly by Redoute's Choice out of the Group One-winng mare Zabeel mare Lights Of Heaven.