Port Macquarie trainer John Sprague hopes Laurentian can bounce back from an uncharacteristic last-start flop and kick off a good week for the stable when he lines up at the Wauchope Jockey Club's transferred meeting at Kempsey on Monday.
Laurentian, who lines up in the Wauchope RSL Club Benchmark 61 Handicap (1000m), is one of four runners Sprague will saddle up at Kempsey. The trainer is also looking forward to Thursday when his in-form galloper Glitra looms as a key runner in the $65,000 Ballina Showcase Cup (1600m).
Laurentian had been a model of consistency prior to his last-start failure at Taree, compiling two wins and six placings from his previous nine starts. The Snippetson gelding was coming off an easy Port Macquarie win in a Benchmark 55 Hcp over 1006m on July 31 when he lined up as the $2.25 favourite in a Benchmark 60 over 1000m at Taree on August 18.
Laurentian missed the start slightly but was in the firing line in the straight before weakening to finish ninth of the 10 runners, beaten just under four lengths behind the winner Dreamalina.
"He had been racing very consistently for quite some time before his last run at Taree but he's a horse who can put in a bad run every now and then," said Sprague. "Maybe it's a sign that he's ready for a break.
"But his work since has been good and hopefully he can bounce back on Monday. If he doesn't perform again on Monday it might be time for him to go to the paddock."
Stable apprentice Cejay Graham, who claims 2kg, again partners Laurentian and will also ride two of Sprague's earlier runners - Zoeasy in the Wauchope Hotel Maiden Hcp (1250m) and Penny Fling in the Port City Glass Maiden Plate (1450m).
Sprague is happy with the way the two mares are progressing since they recently joined his stable. Zoeasy was placed in three of her first nine starts when trained by Gerald Ryan before having her first start for Sprague when fifth behind Oh No Not Again in a Taree Maiden (1250m) on August 18.
Ex-Joe Pride galloper Penny Fling has been placed in her two runs since joining the Sprague stable, finishing back-to-back thirds at Port Macquarie over 1206m on July 31 and at Taree over 1250m on August 18.
"They're both coming along nicely and hopefully a win isn't far away for both of them," said Sprague. "Penny Fling should certainly appreciate the step up to the 1450m on Monday."
Meanwhile, Sprague is looking forward to Glitra dropping back to the 'mile' in Thursday's Ballina Cup. The five-year-old is having a great campaign, winning three of his past seven starts as well as finishing a fighting third to Darci's Affair and Gold Horizon in the Coffs Harbour Cup (1600m) on August 3.
He then went on to win the Taree Cup Prelude over 1624m on August 10 before failing in the Taree Cup (2000m) when a eighth to Pirate Ben at his most recent outing on August 20. "The step up the 2000m was a bit much for him last time, but provided that run hasn't taken too much out of him he should be hard to beat back to the 1600m of the Ballina Cup," he said.