By Ray Hickson
In 45 years of training, Keith Dryden has never had a bigger moment than when Handle The Truth beat the best country NSW can offer in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko (1200m) at Randwick on Saturday.
The Canberra based conditioner paid tribute to his staff as the four-year-old held off the favourite Victorem and realised a plan Dryden hatched some months ago.
Along for the ride were the 40-strong Shellharbour TAB Punters Club, who selected Handle The Truth after drawing a ticket in the $5 sweepstakes in September.
“The stable staff have been fantastic, we’ve been short staffed and they’ve just lifted so much,’’ Dryden said.
“This is the biggest prizemoney we’ve ever won, I think there’s going to be some champagne.’’
There are 27 owners in Handle The Truth, who took his record to seven wins from 13 starts and prizemoney over the $900,000 mark.
Dryden was adamant the gelding couldn’t beat the likes of Country Championships winners Victorem and Noble Boy first-up from a spell so ensured he had a run under his belt and it paid dividends.
Jockey Nash Rawiller was given an open book to ride the horse and Dryden said he dared not tell the in-form hoop what to do.
“I told you months ago what I was doing,’’ he said.
“I didn’t believe I could come in without a run under our belt. Too tough.
“The owners were saying what are you going to tell him, I said you don’t tell Nash anything.
“I just said 'Nash you’ll be on the bunny somewhere' and he rode him perfectly.’’
Dryden said he was rapt for the slot winners and pointed out for many of them the cut of the prizemoney will make a big difference in their lives.
“Some of them are pensioners and one of them said to me ‘Keith if we win this I’ll have some money in the bank’,’’ he said.
Albert Tory is the syndicate manager of the Shellharbour TAB Punters Club and he endured a nervous 68 seconds or so as Handle The Truth vindicated his selection.
He was beside himself as the race was run and even more so as it sunk in that they’d won the world’s richest country race.
“There’s 40 punters in the horse, I picked the horse and I was worried I might have made a mistake,’’ Tory said.
“What a trip. We are living the dream, the richest country race in the world.
“How good is it? The Kosciuszko and The Everest, it’s the best day’s racing. I can’t believe it, some of these people have never been to Randwick and we won!’’
Handle The Truth wins The Kosciuszko at Royal Randwick
Victorem’s jockey Tommy Berry said he felt the Port Macquarie galloper was just short of a run while Provincial Championships winner Bobbing flew home from last to run third.
“At the top of the straight I thought I was going to pick him up quite easily but on that firm track he just struggled to catch him late,’’ he said.
“The horse is going well, he was only first up and he’s going to take a lot of improvement out of it.”