As a stud career beckons, Counterattack has just two opportunities to add an elusive Group One win to his record, starting with the Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
The four-year-old’s connections will be hoping it’s ninth time lucky, while Chris Waller offered more tangible evidence that the drought may soon be broken on a heavy track.
Sydney’s leading trainer felt Counterattack’s second to Redzel in the weight-for-age Doomben 10,000 (1200m) a fortnight ago on a soft surface was a good omen.
Counterattack made a sustained run from back in the field to hit the line a half-length behind the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Redzel.
“Counterattack doesn’t mind a bit of give in the track. He’s a genuine chance to win his Group One. He will be hard to beat,” Waller said.
Counterattack will make his racing swan song in the Group One Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 10, a race he finished 12th in last year.
He then returns to his birthplace at Kitchwin Hills Stud in Scone.
While Waller was upbeat about Counterattack retiring on a high, stablemate Japonisme’s wait for his second Group One success seems destined to continue.
The four-year-old made the perfect Group One debut at Flemington in the 2015 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) but in 11 subsequent attempts since has been unable to finish better than third.
Japonisme faded to second last in the All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick the last time he encountered a heavy track and in his last start he was seventh in the Doomben 10,000.
“He just needs a good track and it’s not ideal on Saturday. I’m doubtful he’ll handle it, but you’ve got to try,” Waller said.
“If he doesn’t handle it on Saturday he will go for a holiday.”
Waller was optimistic the Eagle Farm track would stand up to scrutiny a fortnight out from the Group One Queensland Derby (2400m) following criticism of the surface by trainers and jockeys in March and April.
“I’m going to remain positive that they’ll get good footing,” Waller said.
“I’m sure if the track’s not safe they wouldn’t be running. If it’s safe, it’s good enough for me.”