It might be a higher mountain to climb this year but Keith Dryden couldn’t be happier with Handle The Truth, who is out to defend his title in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko at Randwick.
In a testament to the strength and depth in country racing, Handle The Truth is the only horse who contested last year’s Kosciuszko to get a sweepstake winners’ tick in Saturday’s renewal.
But despite extra weight and a wide barrier, Dryden is anticipating another big performance from his talented sprinter.
“He’s gone perfectly for us and now we just need a good ride and some luck,” Dryden said.
“But at this stage, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at with the horse.”
Handle The Truth will be partnered by Nash Rawiller, who steered him to victory over subsequent Group Two winner Victorem in last year’s race.
Dryden, whose 2019-20 season was capped by a fifth Canberra trainers’ premiership title, has left nothing to chance, adopting the same formula as 12 months ago.
The five-year old will again tackle the world’s richest race for country-trained horses second up after two trial wins and a luckless sixth in benchmark company over the 1200m Kosciuszko journey at Randwick earlier this month.
“He went really well first up. He usually races well fresh and his record is also good second up,” Dryden said.
“If he runs up to that then I expect the horse to be right in the mix.
“He’s gone to another level in maturity. He’s always been physically strong but mentally, he’s a bit more relaxed on the track now.
“We rode him from behind first up but in his early days he was a bit of a handful and we would not have been able to do that.”
Handle The Truth will head to the Goulburn Cup (1400m) after Saturday but Dryden is also keen to test the horse over a mile at some stage this campaign.
The well-named sprinter, who is by Star Witness out of Assertively, was bred and syndicated by Louis Mihalyka of Laurel Oak Bloodstock.
Mihalyka is a long-time associate of Dryden and they also shared success with multiple stakes-winning sprinter Into The Night.
Handle The Truth’s odds were trimmed from $10 into $7.50 for the Kosciuszko after the shock scratching of second favourite Front Page, who sustained injuries while being floated to Sydney on Friday.