By Ray Hickson
Reigning Kosciuszko champ Handle The Truth has done more than enough in trainer Keith Dryden’s eyes since his biggest win to warrant a second shot later this year and he’s keen for the gelding to have the chance to go back-to-back.
Of course it’s the public who decides the make up of the $1.3 million feature, currently scheduled for October 17 at Randwick, which is exclusively for country trained horses.
Dryden, who turned 74 on Monday, said he’s currently debating whether to spell Handle The Truth, who ran fourth in the Listed Ortensia Stakes (1100m) at his latest start on May 16, or give him a start in Melbourne in June before aiming at the spring.
“The Kosciuszko is going to be our main aim, I'm sure there’ll be three or four top horses in there but he’ll only be coming up against country based horses,’’ Dryden said.
“It’s up to the public (whether he gets in) but he’s a horse that always runs you a good race.
“He’s only won the one race since the Kosciuszko but he’s been getting a reasonable prizemoney cheque each time.
“His runs have been solid but I haven’t been able to find the right distance for him.’’
Handle The Truth, a rising five-year-old, has raced six times since he won the second edition of The Kosciuszko where he beat the likes of Victorem, Bobbing and Noble Boy – he chased home subsequent Villiers winner Quackerjack in the Goulburn Cup and was placed in the Listed Starlight Stakes, both in November.
He won the Camarena Quality (1000m) under 61.5kg first-up in his current preparation before venturing into Group and Listed company where he has been unplaced but not disgraced in three attempts.
Dryden said he was more that satisfied with Handle The Truth’s last start, where he ran a last 600m of 32.63 in his fourth placing at Rosehill.
“Nash (Rawiller) got off him the other day when he ran fourth and said even if the winner had still won he would have run second because he’s looking for that extra ground,’’ Dryden said.
“The start before he missed the kick by two or three lengths and ran ninth but only got beaten 3.4 lengths against good quality horses.
“It just hasn’t gone our way lately but there’s plenty of times that it has gone our way.’’
Handle The Truth is on the third line of TAB betting for The Kosciuszko at $8 with Victorem, recent Victory Stakes winner, the $5 favourite ahead of Takeover Target Stakes winner Snitz ($6).
The latter is likely to contest Saturday week’s Listed Bob Charley AO Stakes (1100m) at Randwick, along with the possible return of Everest runner Classique Legend, but Dryden said he’s looking for a 1200m race so Handle The Truth won’t be there.
Handle The Truth wins The Kosciuszko in October
It’s been a hugely successful past month or so for Dryden, with 15 winners from his last 50 runners including five in the past week, and he said he may have a dark horse contender for The Kosciuszko if three-year-old Shenandoah lives up to expectation.
Granted the gelding has only had the two starts, and it’s probably a pipe dream for this year, but Dryden said he’d be surprised if Shenandoah doesn’t work his way through the grades quickly.
“He’s a nice young horse I have a bit of a rap on, he has to take the next step obviously but has shown me plenty on the track,’’ Dryden said.
“He’d have to come through and knock off a couple of Highways between now and then but he’s shown me enough on the track to say he has some ability.’’