Chris Waller believes the 2016 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes is the “perfect race” for his consisting four-year-old Counterattack who chases his maiden Group 1 win at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday.
A field of 15 remain for this year’s $500,000 Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) after the scratching of the Peter & Paul Snowden-trained Tycoon Tara (8) who instead heads to Sydney for the $400,000 Group 2 Golden Pendant (1400m).
Drawn mid-field in barrier seven, which last produced a winner with Toorak Toff (2011), is the clear favourite in Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes betting Counterattack.
The Redoute’s Choice stallion is the dominant $3.50 top fancy and market mover, backed in from $4.80.
He was last seen kicking off his spring with a close second to stablemate Mackintosh in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) on September 10.
This weekend Counterattack heads south to Melbourne for the first time since his brave third to another Waller-trained star Japonisme in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington last Victoria Derby Day.
That is his sole Victorian run to date after the luckless youngster was scratched at the barriers for the autumn’s Newmarket Handicap at Flemington earlier this year.
Since then he has won just one of his six starts when successful at Doomben in the Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1350m) on May 21.
His other best result over the past season was another placing behind Japonisme in Sydney’s Group 2 Arrowfield 3YO Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 9.
On Saturday Waller is hoping a return to Melbourne second-up can spark a return to winning form for Counterattack who has Craig Williams in the saddle for his fourth Group 1 assignment.
“He was very unlucky in Sydney first-up, he probably should’ve won,” Waller told Racing Victoria.
“He just got out a bit too late.
“He hasn’t got a Group 1 on his resume yet, but in my opinion, he’s showing all the signs to be a Group 1 winner.
“Saturday looks a very good chance for it.”
Williams’ sole ride on the galloper to date was the Arrowfield second during ‘The Championships’, the hoop chasing his record sixth Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes victory.
Twelve months ago he rode the Darren Weir-trained Stratum Star (2015) to victory, which followed his previous winning rides aboard: Toorak Toff (2011), Response (2010), Rewaaya (2006) and Barley A Moment (2005).
Waller is confident he’s found the right race for Counterattack to shine in, the distance and nice 54kg handicap both working in the up-and-comer’s favour.
“As a Group 1 non-winner, we’ve been trying to find the right handicap races,” Waller said.
“He might just struggle at a mile, so the Rupert Clarke’s the perfect race.
“With a lead-up run coming into it, he should be at his peak fitness. 1400m is his best distance.”
Counterattack has had just the one 1400m run to date when finishing just better than mid-field when seventh to Under The Louvre in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in June.
Waller believes he has progressed well since then and with the Stradbroke Handicap winner Under The Louvre set to scratch-out of the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes, Counterattack is a genuine winning chance if he gets a clear run with cover.
“[We want him ridden] with a bit of cover,” Waller said.
“He’s a horse that can fire up a bit and over-race if you make use of him too early into the race.
“Without cover, he can over-race a touch. But we’ve got a good jockey in Craig Williams aboard, so we’ll leave that to him.”
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