Trainer Chris Waller has revealed that the 2016 Newmarket Handicap will be the major autumn target for promising sprinter Counterattack.
Waller has had a big opinion of Counterattack since he made his racing debut in November of 2014, but the colt was slightly disappointing as two-year-old and he recorded just one win from his first seven starts, which included a flat performance in the Group 1 J.J. Atkins (1600m) at Doomben on June 6.
Counterattack started his 2015 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with an impressive win in the Listed Heritage Stakes (1100m) at Royal Randwick on September 19 and he failed to fire in the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) at the same venue on October 3 before he returned to winning form in the Listed Brian Crowley Stakes (1200m) on October 17.
He was sent to the spelling paddock following his third place finish in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on October 31, but he has been back in work for nearly two months and was given a soft barrier trial at Royal Randwick on January 12.
Waller told Sky Racing HQ that Counterattack will return to the races in either the Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on January 30 or the Group 3 Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick a week later and the leading Sydney trainer is confident that the Redoute’s Choice can go on and be more than competitive in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 12.
“I think that he is one of the most underrated horses in the stable, but in saying that he has let us down a couple of times,” Waller said.
“I thought in the JJ Atkins that he would have been our leading hope and Press Statement made him look second-rate and then again in the Roman Consul he would challenge Exosphere and he didn’t, Exosphere was dominant.
“He redeemed himself in the Coolmore where he was a very unlucky third in the wrong part of the track, but I think that he could be the big improver in the autumn.
“For that reason, we are going to target the Newmarket with him.
“He is a brother to Red Tracer and Shellscrape, so the pedigree is there and if he can get that Group 1 next to his name then he is a seriously valuable horse.
“He could start off in the Expressway next week and if he doesn’t run there it could be the Eskimo Prince, so he is ready to go.”
Counterattack is currently available at 2016 Newmarket Handicap odds of $34 with Ladbrokes, while Chautauqua ($3.50) is a clear favourite from Exosphere ($5.50), Terravista ($11) and Delectation ($11).