04/27/2006 11:00PM

Knights Templar grown up for Star Shoot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A more mature Knights Templar will take center stage Sunday at Woodbine in the $125,000 Star Shoot Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The six-furlong event was scheduled for last Sunday, but was on part of the card that was canceled because of poor track conditions caused by heavy rains.

Gumboots, victorious in the allowance prep for the Star Shoot, is also entered, but she will likely be scratched in favor of next Sunday's $150,000 Fury Stakes for Ontario-breds.

Knights Templar was voted the Sovereign Award for champion 2-year-old filly last year, when she won three races and banked $304,117. She captured the six-furlong Ontario Debutante Stakes in August, but the highlight of her season was a 13 1/4-length score in the Grade 3 Mazarine Breeders' Cup Stakes in October, for which she received a whopping Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Knights Templar faded to sixth after forcing a rapid pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont. In her only outing this year, the Jan. 28 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream, she finished sixth after stalking the pace along the inside under jockey Eddie Castro.

Chris Vella, an assistant to his father, trainer Danny Vella, felt Knights Templar might have fared better in the six-furlong Oaks if things had gone her way.

"She hit the gate and got bumped at the start," Vella said. "The track was a bit cuppy on the inside, and Castro said he needed to hustle her a bit just to get her into the race, because she wasn't handling it right away. I think she was a touch under-fit and could have been closer with a cleaner trip."

Chris Vella said Knights Templar has trained well of late.

"She's doing unbelievable right now," Vella said. "I think the biggest thing about her is that she's training as hard as she ever has, but at the same time is more relaxed. She's matured."

Robert Landry will ride Knights Templar for the first time Sunday.

The Star Shoot field also includes Motel Dancing, Drinknwiththedevil, Shes the Real Deal, Sudsy Baby, and Summer Girlfriend.

Summer Girlfriend and Shes the Real Deal both raced prominently over a speed-favoring track in the five-furlong Star Shoot prep. They finished second and third, respectively.

Sudsy Baby had a solid 2-year-old campaign, winning 2 of 7 starts and $120,729. She wound up fourth in the Star Shoot prep after running against the bias.

Summer Cruise, who had shipped in from Delaware last week for the race, has gone back home and is a scratch.