A recent acquisition for Australia’s leading trainer Darren Weir, Count Encosta will be looking to keep their perfect record this winter in check when they race at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The Wangoom-based Weir, who celebrated a premiership winning 250 winners nationwide last season, is the fourth trainer to look after the preparation of the Encosta De Lago gelding who on Friday entered their eight-year-old season.
He’s been able to ignite a form resurgence from the veteran too since taking over the reins, Count Encosta winning both his starts for Weir this July, with Weir working them at the beach.
“Obviously the last trainer, they trained on a track so there was no point me doing that,” Weir told RSN’s Racing and Sports this morning.
“So we went down to our beach stable and he’s done quite a lot of work in the water.
“Plenty of variety so hopefully it works.”
Originally prepared by Team Hawkes in Sydney in 2009, John Thompson trained the galloper for the bulk of their career.
Highlights from their time in Sydney under Thompson’s tutelage included their Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) win in 2010 and fourth behind Herculian Prince in that spring’s Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) during the Spring Racing Carnival four years ago.
Picking up a number of Group minor placings over the subsequent few years Count Encosta’s form had been tapering off when they started a career in Melbourne with Daryl Archard at the end of last year.
After finishing in the money just once in their nine starts for Archard however, they were sent Weir in western Victoria hoping for the best.
Even Weir, known for his ability to revive the careers of old warhorses, though was surprised with just how well Count Encosta has done this campaign.
They debuted for Weir at Echuca on July 7 and handled a Heavy (8) track to win by a long neck before their Warrnambool win over 1700m on an even more rain-affected track 13 days later carrying a hefty 60kg.
Count Encosta now goes to the city running in Race 2 at Moonee Valley, the $40,000 Advanced Mailing Solutions Handicap (1600m) but Weir isn’t counting his chickens just yet.
“The two races he’s won haven’t been that strong,” he said.
“He’s got to take another step.”
They had a Tuesday hit-out however over 900m hitting the line really well, showing the same sort of improvement they did in those two runs.
Weir will get a better gauge of just how their improvement will hold after this weekend with Count Encosta to be ridden from barrier four on 58kg by Brad Rawiller.
“He’ll get every chance,” Weir said. “He’s drawn well.”
They’re the early market mover in the Ladbrokes Australia markets on the race now into $7.50, the bookies taking no chances after their nice lead-up runs.
The race also features the Australian debut of Mick Price’s imported French mare Elwaaryaa who, drawn in barrier two, is also under $10 to win.
Weir meanwhile tipped his best chance of the weekend as Atlantis Dream in the last – the $80,000 Sportingbet Handicap (1600m).
The six-year-old has won three of her past four starts including the Leilani Series Final over 1400m at Flemington on July 12 and Weir said the Elusive City mare was tracking the same as she was leading up to that.
“She’s in similar order (to last time),” he said.
“She’s going to be really competitive and is my best chance of the day.”