Canberra trainer Keith Dryden. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
With two fancied runners in the Tony Campbell Memorial-Cleary Racing benchmark 61 handicap (1600 metres) at Queanbeyan on Sunday, one owned by his partner Trish, Canberra trainer Keith Dryden figures he's on a hiding to nothing.
Dryden saddles up Billybougg, owned by Trish Buchanan, and Roman Alliance.
"One way or another I'm going to cop it from both barrels," Dryden said, tongue-in-cheek.
"If Billybougg gets beaten by Roman Alliance, Trish, while she understands racing, won't take it too kindly, Billybougg is the family pet. She loves him. Trish is expecting great things. I'm diving for cover.
"If Billybougg does win, I'll have to explain what happened to the other owners."
Both Billybougg, with Winona Costin on board, and Roman Alliance (Kevin Sweeney) have undeniable chances.
Dryden was prepared to go out on a precarious limb, however, in his pre-race predictions.
"On the way they've worked I'd have to favour Roman Alliance," he said.
"Roman Alliance has drawn a bad barrier [nine] but with any luck in running he should just about win.
"His run the other day [December 12] at Canterbury was pretty good. He got into a bit of trouble.
"Without being too critical of the kid [Anthony Allen] they were bowling along at a good bat up front and he decided not to let the leaders get too far away and went forward from about four lengths off them.
"No sooner than he did that and [the leaders] pulled up and Roman Alliance got into a bit of trouble.
"He wasn't beaten far."
That race was won by Soros, which made a perfectly-timed run from a rearward position on straightening. Roman Alliance finished 3¼ lengths sixth. The lightly-raced gelding, picked up by Dryden as a yearling in Melbourne, previously won over 1400m at Canberra on November 30.
"He was a little roly poly to start with," Dryden said. "We decided to geld him and this preparation he's come back a lot better.
"We just gave him time and since he's been stepped up in distance he's racing well.
"I eventually expect him to be a 2000m horse, especially if we can get him to settle a bit better.
"In saying that, I haven't really trained him as a 2000m horse. He's maturing all the time and next preparation, I'll step him up further."
Billybougg, bred by Dryden and the winner of seven races, is coming off a last-start third to Canny Ballad over 1400m at Goulburn on December 12.
"It was a good run at Goulburn in a shorter race," Dryden said.
"We've had a lot of fun with Billybougg.
"He'll be thereabouts."