Keith Dryden deliberately threw Handle The Truth into the deep end before his Kosciuszko assignment at Randwick on Saturday – and he was pleased with the way he navigated those challenges.
It is why the evergreen seven-year-old will go into the $2 million feature sprint over 1200m for top country horses at Randwick as a $7.50 winning chance with Palmerbet.
The gelding was very impressive in his third in the Concorde Stakes (1000m) on September 3, a respectable 4 ½ lengths behind Eduardo, who is an $11 winning chance for The Everest.
Dryden’s winner of the 2019 Kosciuszko also finished 11th in The Shorts – featuring some of the best sprinters in Australia and the world – in his last start on September 17.
This is why the veteran Canberra trainer has faith Handle The Truth can win his second title in the sough-after slot race on Saturday, after he and Nash Rawiller combined to salute three years ago.
“I decided to do that (step him up in grade) because you’ve got to go into the race believing you’re a live chance,” Dryden told HorseBetting.com.au, with his runner to compete for the Burwood Inn Hotel syndicate.
“I think this is probably the toughest Kosciuszko so far, so I decided to set him those tough tasks to start with.
“So now he’s coming back in grade a little bit, and I’m happy with the way he’s performed.
“We’ve drawn well (barrier six) and I’ve got Nash Rawiller again – he knows the horse well.”
It was Rawiller who asked Dryden if he still had the ride after the star jockey saluted in the Concorde aboard Eduardo for Joe Pride.
And that is because of the high regard Rawiller has for Handle The Truth.
“Nash only had one ride on the day – a winner. I was driving on my way home, and he rang and said ‘were you happy with that?’” Dryden said.
“I said ‘more to the point, were you happy with him?’
“And he said ‘yeah. I’m still on, aren’t I?’
“And I said ‘yes, you certainly are’.
“He likes the horse and has confidence in him, so that’s a good start.”
Apart from his love of steep challenges, many people are also drawn to Handle The Truth because of his personality.
“He’s just such a laidback horse. We don’t treat him any differently in our stable to any other horse,” Dryden said.
“He works in the morning, gets hosed off and put in his box. I don’t touch him until the afternoon.
“He’s so laidback. For a horse of his age – he’s done it all his life.
“But generally when they’re five and six, they work and then stand around looking around at things.
“He’ll go and have a lie-down. Or he’ll look at other horses working on the track and it never upsets him. He’ll stare out there, and you’ll come back an hour later and he’s still looking out the window.
“He never attracted much attention when I first had him.
“He’s just a laidback horse. He’s not an outstanding type or anything like that.”
Dryden is looking forward to what will be a hugely-competitive 2022 edition of The Kosciuszko.
It is a highly popular race which continues to captivate the hearts and minds of country racing fans, many of them in the younger-age demographic.
“I think Geoff Duryea’s horse, Front Page, is a really good chance,” Dryden said.
“Art Cadeau is a top-quality horse.
“Front Page goes exceptionally well first-up. I think this is the hardest race we’ve had – there are several chances.”
Meanwhile, previous favourite for The Kosciuszko – It’s Me – was scratched on Friday.
The Brett Cavanough-trained mare had been battling a stone bruise for most of this week, placing her under a fitness cloud.
The six-year-old was passed suitable to start when inspected by Racing NSW veterinarian Dr Rose Bensley on Thursday.
But Dr Bensley had a change of heart on Friday, deeming the mare to be lame in the near fore leg and not suitable to start.
Cavanough agreed with the decision, saying he wanted to get her feet right, adding it would be unlikely she would be OK to start The Invitation next week.
Far Too Easy for David McColm is the new Kosciuszko favourite at $3.90.
2019 The Kosciuszko Replay – Handle The Truth
Handle The Truth’s Odds In The 2022 Kosciuszko
The Kosciuszko –
7yo Gelding | T: Keith Dryden | J: Nash Rawiller (59kg)