Brisbane trainer Paul Butterworth heads to Tuesday's Lismore meeting with two good chances, including his smart sprinter Counter Meal who resumes in the Event Party Hire Benchmark 66 Hcp (1100m).
Counter Meal, winner of last year's $100,000 Rockhampton Newmarket (1300m), hasn't raced since March when he completed a disappointing campaign.
"He just didn't come up last preparation but we gave him four and half months off and I think he's come back in pretty good order. He won a recent jump out at Eagle Farm pretty well and I think if he produces his best form he should be hard to beat first-up on Tuesday," said Butterworth.
"He goes into the race a bit underdone but he usually races well fresh. He won the Rocky Newmarket last year off a break.
"I was hoping they would get a bit more rain at Lismore over the past few days as he really likes soft tracks, but I still expect him to race well."
The Lismore track was rated a soft 5 on Monday morning but with no further rain expected it is likely to get back in the 'good' range by Tuesday.
Butterworth has booked 2kg-claiming apprentice Olivia Pickering to ride Counter Mail who will still have to lump 60.5kg after her allowance.
"He's drawn a good alley (barrier two), so should get the perfect run just behind the speed," said the Eagle Farm-based trainer.
Butterworth said some of the sprint races coming up around the Northern Rivers at the various Cup meetings in the next few weeks could be next on the cards if Counter Meal returns to his best form: "I'll see how he goes at Lismore first before deciding where to head with him," he said.
Butterworth's only other runner at Lismore on Tuesday is the lightly-raced four-year-old Aceplay in the Maiden Hcp (1100m). By Casino Prince out of Absolute Lure, Aceplay is a full-brother to the former classy John Thompson-trained galloper Hooked, a winner at Group 2 and 3 level.
Aceplay won two barrier trials at Deagon in May and July before making his debut with a third in a Sunshine Coast Maiden (1000m) on July 29 before his last-start 'forget' run at Doomben on August 15 when last of seven behind Full Nelson in a Maiden (1050m). Aceplay was never in the race last time after striking trouble at the start, losing ground and then over-racing.
"He's a horse that's been doing a few things wrong and I think he'll be better down the track, but he's certainly a horse with a lot of ability," said Butterworth. "If he gets the lead (on Tuesday) he could be very hard to beat."
The Daniel Bowen-trained mare Queen of Kingston looks primed to improve on her impressive record on her home track when she steps out in the Tab.com.au Benchmark 59 Hcp (1516m). The lightly-raced five-year-old chases her fourth win from just her 10th start in Tuesday's race. In four outings at Lismore she has posted two wins and two placings.
Queen of Kingston posted back-to-back Lismore wins earlier in the year, including a 7.5 length romp in a Class 2 over 1516m there on May 19. She showed she was on target for another good campaign when she resumed from a break at Lismore on August 14, making ground late to finish second in a Benchmark 66 to stablemate Almas, who drew away over the 1200m to score by almost five lengths.
Gold Coast trainer Toby Edmonds and ex-Victorian jockey Ryan Maloney have been an outstanding team so far in the new season and will combine with four runners at the Lismore meeting.
Maloney partners the Edmonds-trained Capitulate (3YO Maiden, 1200m), first-starter Turmoil (Maiden, 1100m), Mr Wind (Benchmark 66, 1100m) and last-start winner My Dream Lover (Class 1, 1400m). Maloney, who recently moved to Queensland, has ridden 14 winners since August 1, including eight for the Edmonds stable.