As Canberra-trained horses struggle to enter the Highway Handicap, The Kosciuszko 2022 takes on added importance this year for ACT trainers.
On Saturday, two Canberra-trained horses are in the field – Keith Dryden’s Handle the Truth and Matthew Dale’s Cavalier Charles.
Room was made in the race for Cavalier Charles following the withdrawal of Golden Point.
Keith won The Kosciuszko with Handle the Truth in 2019. The seven-year-old gelding finished second in 2021 and is back for a fourth time in the $2 million race.
“It’s probably one of the biggest races I have won,” says Keith.
“The main point for me, though, is the longevity of the horse in this race. He’s back for a fourth time. It has to be some sort of record.”
Keith’s pride is understandable, having taken him on when the horse was only partly syndicated.
The veteran trainer of 40 years, with horses the calibre of Into the Night and Tumble On, quickly identified the potential of the son of Star Witness.
“We’ve looked after him. He’s only lightly raced with 36 starts. He’s a high-class performer. With this class of horse, you want to race to win. It’s about getting the right races.”
With two Canberra-trained horses in The Kosciuszko, it has provided optimism for the Canberra racing industry.
For Keith, the struggles have gone beyond the well-publicised issues, including the inability of Canberra horses to secure regular places in the Highway Handicap and the high cost of workers compensation insurance in the ACT.
He is battling to find enough staff for his stables.
Despite the hurdles, Keith says his love of training hasn’t diminished.
Preparing a horse for The Kosciuszko is a timely bonus.
Keith hasn’t ruled out Handle the Truth going around next year in The Kosciuszko, depending on how he pulls up.
The 1200-metre Kosciuszko sprint will be run at Royal Randwick on Saturday, 15 October. The race is restricted to NSW country and ACT-trained horses only.