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Former rogue gets chance against the elite

EMERGING galloper Le Remas will put a chequered past behind him if he proves capable of holding his own in Saturday's Orr Stakes at Caulfield as trainer Brian McKnight seeks to revive his group 1 dreams more than 30 years after his first foray at the highest level.

One of McKnight's first troops, a mare named Storm Song, ran second in the 1976 Adelaide Cup not long after her trainer's career had begun, but Maldon-based McKnight has struggled to find a horse capable of taking him back to the highest grade since then and admits that he doubted Le Remas would be that horse when he began working with him.

“His mum [Tylden Lady] never raced because she was crazy, totally mad, and early on it was touch and go whether this bloke would ever get to the races either,” McKnight said.

“He was very aggressive and a bit mad too, wanted to do everything at 100 miles an hour. He'd always shown little glimpses of ability though so we gave him every chance and kept persevering.”

Flashes of talent and some early wins buoyed McKnight's confidence that the bad boy of the stable might mend his ways, but whenever he thought he had the horse's measure Le Remas would remind him of his cheeky streak.

“He's always been full of surprises, but I hope he surprises us again on Saturday,” McKnight said.


McKnight is thankful that Le Remas' most recent surprise was victory in the Barton Stakes at Caulfield over 1400 metres a fortnight ago, but knows that the horse's presence in Saturday's $400,000 Orr Stakes alongside superstar colt All Too Hard, group 1 winners King Mufhasa, Wall Street, Mawingo, and Western Australian stayer Mr Moet, will come as a surprise to most punters.

But with a fast and strong on-speed horse in his care, McKnight is keen to throw Le Remas into the deep end while he is racing well.

“I think it's the right time to try him [at group 1 level]. He's in the zone at the moment and I want to try and find out which way to go with him long term, it's a good race to get an idea of his level,” he said.

McKnight knows that Le Remas faces an enormous task against some proven group 1 gallopers on Saturday and hopes that his horse is forgotten about by rival jockeys and trainers as he banks on fitness and the element of surprise to take him deep into the Caulfield straight.

“If he can find the front he'll relax and cruise and we've got to use our race fitness to advantage, it's our only chance," he said.

"Hopefully we can catch some of the better ones off guard and a bit soft, hopefully he will be hard to catch.”