Thompson Counting on Encosta in 2011 Christmas Cup

Patinack Farm’s head trainer John Thompson is hoping a promising last-start run at Canterbury will progress into a black-type win in the Christmas Cup 2011 at Rosehill this Saturday for his honest galloper Count Encosta.

It has been a long time between drinks for the Encosta De Lago five-year-old, Count Encosta failing to finish better than third since their three straight wins in Sydney during last year’s autumn carnival.

Progressing from a Warwick Farm maiden to a Benchmark 66 to then win the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill in April of 2010, the three-win purple patch is also the only three times Count Encosta has been inside the winner’s stall in their 26-start to date.

Whether they can turn that around on Saturday and break the drought remains to be seen.

Count Encosta is one 12 stayers engaged to face off in the $100,000 Listed Christmas Cup (2400m) running as Rosehill Race 6 at 4:25pm (local time) on Saturday.

Drawn near the rails in barrier two with Brenton Avdulla in the mount, Count Encosta was last seen finishing an eye-catching fourth in the Listed Frank Underwood Cup (1900m) on a Slow (7) track at Canterbury on November 26.

It was a solid performance that hinted at improvement to come, which they will need on Saturday as they face two of the horses that beat them to the line in the Frank Underwood again with runner-up Yulalona and the third placed Scottish Border.

Last preparation Count Encosta started eight times from February through until May, all but one of the races holding Listed status or higher.

Their best finish was a third to Humma in the Group 3 Queensland Chairman’s Handicap (2020m) at Doomben during the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.

Saturday Count Encosta will be having their fifth run this time in, and just their second at stakes level, connections hoping the step down in grade will help the horse live up to some of their potential.

As with the majority of the horses in the 2011 Christmas Cup field, the plan for Count Encosta is to progress onto the $125,000 Group 3 Summer Cup (2400m) back at Rosehill as the headline event on the Sydney Boxing Day Racing program.

“We thought we’d go to those second-tier type of races and take on the off-season horses,” Robyn Hartney, Patinack Farm’s racing manager, said.

“The Christmas Cup and Summer Cups have always been the plan but unfortunately John (Thompson) and (owner) Nathan (Tinkler) couldn’t find any lead-up other than the Frank Underwood and the tight track at Canterbury was never going to suit him.

“He’s a big-striding horse and his last 150 metres was great.

“He was pulling ground off them on the line.”

Count Encosta has twice been to the 2400 metres when finishing four lengths away fourth to Herculian Prince in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Randwick in October last year, followed by their sixth to subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Americain, beaten just one and a half lengths in the 2010 Geelong Cup.

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