It didn’t take long for Canberra trainers to make an impact on Sydney’s Highway Handicaps following their readmittance to the series at the start of this month.
Last Saturday saw Handle the Truth, a three-year-old trained in partnership by Keith Dryden and Scott Collings in the national capital, landed a betting plunge with his brave win in the 1200-metre Class 3 TAB Highway at Rosehill.
After being backed in from $7.40 to start a $3.40 favourite, the gelding sat right behind the leader, Risk And Reward, until reaching the top of the straight, where jockey Jay Ford moved off the rail to issue his challenge.
Handle the Truth then knuckled down to his task, claiming Risk And Reward just before the post to score by a long head, his third win from just five starts.
“We think he’s a nice horse,” Collings said. “He’s always shown a lot of ability.
“He probably didn’t let down like he usually does. I think he struggled in the going (heavy 8) but it was a tough effort as he was racing over 1200 metres for the first time this preparation.”
Ford was similarly positive about Handle the Truth’s future.
“He’s very raw but has a lot of upside to him,” he said.
Adding merit to the win is the fact that Handle The Truth is still a two-year-old by foaling date and was taking on older horses.
Mandy motors through mud
Earlier, supporters of Kembla Grange mare Mandylion ($5.50) had little cause for concern as the Gwenda Markwell-trained mare strolled to a convincing all-the-way win in the 1500-metre benchmark 78.
Apprentice Sam Weatherley sent the mare straight to the front and from there dictated terms.
At the 250-metre mark, the leader kicked clear and gained what proved to be a winning break. Madame Markievicz fought on to the line for second without ever threatening.
“It was a very tough performance — she thoroughly deserved that win,” said Weatherley.
“She raced in her natural pattern and was just far too good for them on wet ground. She swims through that ground and still felt well towards the end.”
Markwell’s other runner on the program, Excelsior, ran third in the final race, the 1800-metre benchmark 78, to cap off a good day for the trainer.
Great art, great cause
Jockey Deanne Panya, who does the majority of her riding at provincial and country tracks, is not just a talented rider, but a very talented artist as well.
She recently completed a lifesize portrait of Winx winning with Hugh Bowman on board, which is currently on display in the lobby at Racing NSW’s offices.
Small prints of this wonderful portrait, signed by both Bowman and trainer Chris Waller, will soon be available for sale to aid drought-stricken farmers.
Only 50 prints will be signed by Waller and Bowman, priced at $480 each.
Prints signed by the artist only are priced at $320.
To order one of these limited-edition pieces, e-mail Deannep@live.com.au
Rock and give
The NSW TAB is also helping the farmers, by sponsoring country-and-western singer Brad Cox on his current tour of country NSW.
Cox recently wrote and recorded a song about The Kosciuszko for the TAB, and Tabcorp has pledged 100 per cent of the proceeds of every download to the drought relief fund Rural Aid.
Around the country
In a thrilling three-horse finish, the Brett Cavanough-trained mare Lamma Hilton ($6.50) won Friday’s 2100-metre Tuncurry Cup under Rachel King by a short head from Lady Evelyn with the favourite, White Boots, a nose away in third.
On the same day at Canberra, there was no camera required in the 1200-metre benchmark 65, where the Nick Olive-trained gelding Supreme Polarity ($2.20 favourite) scored an impressive three length victory.
The following day at Griffith, the 1350-metre, Griffith Cup saw the Gary Colvin-trained $3.60 favourite Danetrille record a strong win under Blaike McDougall.
One to watch from that meeting could be the Gary Kirkup-trained Original Prankster ($11), who romped away to a 4½-length win in the 1000-metre benchmark 58 with Mathew Cahill in the saddle.
Meanwhile, out west, the 1400-metre Collarenebri Cup was won in convincing fashion by the Gavin Goth-trained Beale Street ($3.60), ridden by Jake Pracey-Holmes.
It was the first leg of a winning double for the jockey, who took out the final race on the program aboard Genetics ($4.40) for trainer Lindsey Kennedy.
Riding honours for the day went to Vad Bolozhinskyi, who rode a treble on the six-race program.
On Sunday at Muswellbrook, the feature Godophin Ladies Day Cup (1280m) was won in strong style by Majestic Pedrille ($4.80), ridden by Mathew Cahill and trained by Mark Schmetzer.
Coolring waits on a call
On Monday, the Joe Cleary-trained Coolring had an exhibition gallop between races at Queanbeyan, in preparation for a tilt at the $1.3 million Kosciuszko.
The race, to be run on October 13, is restricted to country-trained horses, with the field to be determined by slot holders.
Coolring, a stakes winner, has won more than $620,000 with eight wins from 50 starts.
“If he gets a slot then I’d like to run him first up in The Kosciuszko. This horse races well fresh,” Cleary said.
Big day at Dubbo
This Sunday, the Dubbo Turf Club will stage its annual Showcase meeting, headlined by the $60,000 Dubbo Gold Cup (1600m).
Support races include be the $40,000 XXXX Gold Open Flying (1100m) and the $50,000 NSW Showcase Picnic Championship Final (1400m).
The Picnic Championship Series began last September and has been conducted over 31 meetings, culminating in Sunday’s final.
Under the qualifying system, horses are awarded points for every picnic meeting they race at, with the highest point-scorers at the end of the season eligible to nominate for the final.
It’s a great initiative for the picnic-class gallopers and has been well received by trainers and owners.