Canberra star Handle The Truth's campaign aimed at a second win in the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko took another step in the right direction when he easily won a jump-out at his home track on Wednesday morning.
"It was a 1000-metre jump-out against five others and he won quite easily," trainer Keith Dryden said. "He wasn't knocked around, but still ran good time. Damon Budler rode him. The horse had a good blow after it. He'll take a lot of improvement from it.
"I'll look for a barrier trial to suit him in the next couple of weeks and all being well after that he'll have a lead-up race in late September in either Sydney or Melbourne."
The Kosciuszko is a unique event in that punters can buy $5 tickets in a slot draw and if they win one of the 14 spots in the race they pick a horse to run for them and a do a deal on a prizemoney split with the connections.
The slot draw will be conducted on September 9 and many borderline contenders for The Kosciuszko will race around that time in a bid to impress slot winners.
But Dryden is convinced Handle The Truth's established race record will guarantee the horse is selected by one of the slot-holders for the big race over 1200 metres at Randwick on October 16.
Handle The Truth won The Kosciuszko in 2019 and was an unlucky fourth from a wide barrier last year.
"Plenty of trainers are wrapping their horses," Dryden said. "A horse wins a Class Two race and they say: 'Oh, this is a Kosciuszko horse'. Well, this is nearly a Group horse and his class is above many of those horses," Dryden said.
"He looks great in himself and in his work. Damon Budler has been going well as an apprentice and riding quite a few winners and after he rode him for me one morning last week he came back and said: 'Gee, I've never ridden a horse like this'. It's always good to get positive feedback.
"He's come back looking bigger and stronger this campaign. I firmly believe he can reproduce the form he's shown in two Kosciuszkos. He'll get a lot of weight, but that's what happens when you have a good horse.
"We've just got to get picked up and I'm sure that if we get him to the race right on the day he'll be very competitive."
Handle The Truth has raced 29 times for nine wins, seven placings and $1.36 million in prizemoney. He lumped 61kg to second place at his last start in the Wagga Town Plate on May 6 and carried 59kg in last year's The Kosciuszko.
"Last year we drew real bad and things never worked out for us," Dryden said. "Nash Rawiller was adamant to me afterwards that if he'd drawn a good barrier he either runs second or wins the race.
"Handle The Truth might only have the one race before The Kosciuszko. We'll wait and see. It depends on the horse - he'll tell me if he needs another run."
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