Can Brisbane Handle The Truth?
Star Canberra racehorse Handle The Truth has his sights set on Group One glory in Brisbane after a surprising victory in his first race after a three month break.
The four year old son of Star Witness put his head down late to win the open handicap worth $80,000 on the opening day of the new Canberra Racing Carnival.
‘Leo’, as he is known to stable staff, has amassed over one million dollars in earnings, thanks to his win in Sydney’s The Kosciuszko, which saw him pocket over half of the 1.3 million dollars on offer.
He is now almost ineligible to race in the country with a rating, or benchmark as they’re called, too high.
Handle the Truth will need to compete in Group One – the highest level of horse racing in Australia – to look for bigger, better, stronger races.
I spoke with trainer Keith Dryden about Handle The Truth, how he ended up in the Dryden stable and what’s on the agenda for this future star of Canberra Racing.
Jaike: Hi Keith, thanks for chatting with me. How did you get Handle The Truth into your stable?
Keith Dryden: He was actually sent to me by a client to break in with the intention of selling some shares in him so he could race him with a few people. The original idea was that he was going to go to the sales, but he’s got a small problem with his mouth called a parrot mouth and the sales’ people said ‘look we don’t think he’ll bring a lot of money’. It’s quite manageable, it’s not a problem, only when they’re in the paddock they can’t chip the grass off very close to the ground. So I broke him in and worked him along a bit and we’d sold half of him, 50%, and they couldn’t sell anymore of him. Then when I galloped him and found out how good he went I put a message out to the owners and the rest of him was sold in 24 hours.
J: Speaking on galloping him, was that the first time you realised he was going to be something special and did you think he’d be able to do what he’s done; wining the 1.3 Million dollar race ‘The Kosciuszko’ and winning the open handicap worth 80 thousand dollars on Black Opal Stakes day?
K: You really don’t know. You know they’ve got ability when you gallop them, but some horses show ability and just don’t keep taking the next step. This horse continues to take the next step all the time. We went from a Wagga two-year-old maiden win, to racing at Goulburn. From Goulburn to TAB Highways in Sydney (worth $75,000) wining two of those, and then gradually progressing up in class to where now he’s a benchmark 96 horse, which is just about at listed class and group three level. He’ll be in tough races from now on but each time we put him down he takes the next step and he’s got a fantastic will to win, so that’s all in good stead for him.
J: On his will to win, he showed that at Canberra on Black Opal Stakes day with a strong win returning from a break, what were your thoughts on his performance?
K: I thought he raced well. I made my mind up that if he got (a handicap of) more than 61 kilos (of weight) I wasn’t going to start him, and he got 61 and a half. I said to myself “it’s half a kilo and it is the right race to start him in”. He was probably not quite ready anyway I didn’t think, so I thought if he gave us a really good run and run top three, I’d be very satisfied. But he excelled that and went ahead and just got home by a head.
Handle The Truth salutes on the first day of the Canberra Racing Carnival. Source; Instagram/KeithDrydenRacing.
J: So where does he go now? I heard some rumours of heading to Brisbane in the winter, but what are you thinking right now?
K: At the end of March he’ll go to the Star Kingdom Stakes (March 28), which is a Group Three race at Rosehill (Sydney). He’ll follow that up in mid-April with probably a run in the Hall Mark stakes (Royal Randwick, Sydney, April 18), which is another listed race. He’ll need to run first or second in either of those races to get enough points to get into a race like the Stradbroke Handicap (Group One, Eagle Farm Racecourse, Brisbane), which is in early June. He might have a lead up into the Stradbroke, if he was going good in the BRC Sprint (Group Three, Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane, May 16) over 1350 metres, which is a fortnight before the Stradbroke and if he did that he’d be exempt from ballot anyway. At this stage we need to win one more race and be up around 102 or 103 benchmark points to get us into the bigger races. The aim in the end is the Stradbroke Handicap, a million-dollar race, over 1400 metres. I don’t know if he’s up to that class yet, but everybody dreams and the owners are prepared to give it a shot.
J: You’ve had Group One winning jockey Nash Rawiller riding him his last couple of wins, will you try to keep him on, and if he can’t ride him, do you have anyone else in mind to ride him?
K: I really don’t. I think Nash would stick with the horse, he really likes him, if he can make the weight, which the weight will be the problem. If he can’t then I’m looking for a lightweight jockey and there’s quite a few that aren’t going to be able to make the weight if Nash couldn’t. Our policy is always put the best jockey’s available on, so we’d have to shop around but everyone wants the best jockeys on their horse. It could be a problem for us but at the carnivals you generally get the top Melbourne riders, top Brisbane, top Sydney, so there should be somebody there that we can draw on at the time.
J: Looking forward to later this year and into the next 12 months, what do you think is in store for Handle The Truth?
K: I haven’t planned anything ahead for him other than going to the Stradbroke Handicap. If he didn’t quite measure up, we’d probably look at trying to go in another Kosciuszko. He’d get a fair bit of weight, but I think that’s where you’d have to head with him, if he didn’t measure up going into those other races. But he’ll go to the Stradbroke and then he’ll spell, and then come back and be ready for the Melbourne Cup carnival after that.