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Canberra's Kosciuszko Contenders

As the 2021 Kosciuszko draws near, many Canberra Trainers and owners are dreaming of a berth in the $1.3 million country feature at Royal Randwick on Everest Day, Saturday 16 October 2021.  

Canberra-trained horses are afforded a maximum of two slots with last year’s representatives Man Of Peace & Handle The Truth doing the territory proud, finishing third and fourth respectively.

We have talked to our Trainers to get the inside word on which horses they think are worthy of a Kosciuszko slot this year and what their Spring preparation, which will hopefully culminate in a start in the Kosciuszko, will look like.


Handle The Truth – 6yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Keith Dryden

Record:                                              29: 9-4-3

Prizemoney:                                     $1,361,320

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $15

Winner of the 2019 Kosciuszko, the Keith Dryden-trained, Laurel Oak Bloodstock-owned Handle The Truth must be a great chance of lining up for his third go at the world’s richest race for Country-trained horses. The son of Star Witness was deservedly the first horse selected for the 2020 Kosciuszko when an old friend of managing owner Louis Mihalyka drew a winning ticket. Pinned three wide, no cover in last year’s Kosciuszko, Handle The Truth had no right to finish fourth, just 1.3L behind the winner It’s Me and Trainer Keith Dryden says he’s going at least as well as this time last year.

“He’s in really good order. He will have a jump out in the coming weeks and we’ll find him a Group race for him for his first-up run.”

“If he gets a slot, it’s most likely he’ll go into the Kosciuszko second-up. He was at his brilliant best second-up last prep when winning the National Sprint in track record time.”

Handle The Truth broke the track record on John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Day in the Listed Seears Workwear National Sprint (1400m). Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Man Of Peace – 9yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Matthew Dale

Record:                                              58: 14-6-13

Prizemoney:                                     $755,100

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $26

An unaptly named warhorse, Man Of Peace has proved to be owners dream having won 14 races across a career that has spanned eight seasons (and counting). His best form has come as an up and coming 8yo where his tough, on-pace racing style saw him put together a nice picket fence of Metropolitan grade wins, winning three in a row. This sublime form meant he was an obvious pick for a spot in the 2020 Kosciuszko.

Jumping from Barrier 9, apprentice Jockey Louise Day went straight to the front aboard Man Of Peace who led at almost every post. He was swamped by It’s Me and Redouble with 100m to go but fought off a wall of fast finishers to hold on for third.

Trainer Matthew Dale says “He’s an old hard head who should certainly be in the conversation for a slot again this year.”

“He got himself back in form with a great run last Saturday being beaten less than two lengths with a big weight in a what was a really strong race. He will now most likely head to the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday (4 September 2021).”

Man Of Peace was enormous in the 2020 Kosciuszko, leading at almost every post. Photo credit: Britt Grovenor Photography


Tobermory - 7yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Todd Smart

Record:                                              21: 5-3-5

Prizemoney:                                     $89,815

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $26

Tobermory returned from a 19 month lay-off in brilliant fashion when scoring in a strong Benchmark 66 (1000m) at Albury on 17 August 2021. Carrying 62kgs and near last on the turn, the Todd Smart-trained galloper produced a fantastic last 200m to spear through the middle of them for a 0.44L win. The win saw Tobermory shorten significantly in the Kosciuszko market and has convinced Trainer Todd Smart that he is worthy of being in the conversation for a slot.

“He’s absolutely flying. I wasn’t surprised by his first-up win because I knew how good he is going.”

“He’ll head now to the Provincials or a City race on a Wednesday and if he can win there, I think that will grab him some attention. He’s a lightly-raced horse on the up.”

Tobermony has returned in fantastic order after a 19 month lay off. Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Battleground - 5yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Matthew Dale

Record:                                              10: 1-4-1

Prizemoney:                                     $102,175

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $51

A former Snowden galloper, Battleground as a 3yo was beaten less than half a length in the Listed Gosford Guineas and in doing so, beat home subsequent stakes winners in Exhilarates, Splintex & Fituese. Now with Matthew Dale, Battleground showed his Kosciuszko credentials with a strong second in a Benchmark 72 (1000m) at Metropolitan grade on 31 July 2021. He was disappointing last start in a TAB Highway (1100m) but Dale is adamant that this was a forgive run.

“Nothing went right for him, he lost a shoe at the start and then over raced throughout. We can definitely forgive him for that run.” Dale said.

“We’re still working out his Spring plan.”

Forgive Battleground’s underwhelming display in the TAB Highway on 31 August 2021 after he lost a shoe at the start and overraced throughout the run. Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Miss Ostend - 3yo Filly

Trainer:                                             Norm Gardner

Record:                                              7: 2-0-0

Prizemoney:                                     $53,055

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $51

Miss Ostend gave us a glimpse of her immense talent as a 2yo with an eye-catching run when 4th in the Group 3 John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes (1200m). Prior to that she finished 4th of 14 in the Listed Wyong Magic Millions 2yo (1100m) behind She’s All Class, Gleneagles and Swift Witness. She returned for her latest preparation in fantastic fashion with a dominant win in a strong 2yo race at Moruya on 12 July 2021 and was far from disgraced in the Listed Rosebud running sixth behind some fast ones in Paulele, In the Congo and Remarque.

“She certainly has been mixing it with some top horses” Trainer Norm Gardner said. “As a 3yo filly I think she’s got a heap of improvement in her and I think she’s progressive enough to mix it in this (Kosciuszko) company.”

Miss Ostend will have a short freshen up after her run in the Rosebud. She will have two trials and hopefully then line up first up in the Kosciuszko.”

Miss Ostend (#13) finished brilliantly in the Group 3 John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Day. Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Washington Towers – 5yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Todd Smart

Record:                                              10: 4-1-0

Prizemoney:                                     $63,080

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               $101

Washington Towers kicked off his preparation with a smart jump-out on 25 August 2021 at Thoroughbred Park, winning by over 5L with plenty in the tank. The Todd Smart-trained gelding is a winner of four of his ten starts including a strong Benchmark 65 on TAB Canberra Cup Day back in March. His current quote of $101 with TAB may represent overs if the confidence of his Trainer is anything to go off.

“I honestly can’t split him and Tobermary (currently $26 with TAB). Washington Towers is absolutely airborne and is going to be hard to beat when he steps out first up.”

“All going well he’ll then head to the City where hopefully he can turn a few heads.”

Washington Towers won impressively on TAB Canberra Cup Day. Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Delacour - 4yo Mare

Trainer:                                             Norm Gardner

Record:                                              15: 5-4-0

Prizemoney:                                     $119,420

Current TAB Fixed Odds: Currently not in TAB market

Finishing in the quinella in nine of her 15 starts, Delacour is talented 4yo mare on the rise. Delacour progressed through the grades with ease as a 3yo putting together four wins in a row.

Having won a Benchmark 75 TAB Federal (1080m) at Thoroughbred Park on 6 August 2021, she stepped out to the 1200m in another TAB Federal at Queanbeyan on 24 August 2021 where she ran a valiant second behind talented galloper Island Bay Boy.

“Her run last week (at Queanbeyan) proved to me that she’s strong enough for the 1200m of the Kosciuszko” Trainer Norm Gardner said.

Delacour is a mare with a brilliant record, she’s a winner and I think she’s worthy of being in the conversation (for a slot). I’ll look to give her another run in the coming weeks before deciding her path.”

Norm Gardner’s Delacour is a five-time winner from just 15 starts . Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Molly Nails - 5yo Mare

Trainer:                                             Matthew Dale

Record:                                              4: 2-1-0

Prizemoney:                                     $45,100

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               Currently not in TAB market

She broke her maiden like a good thing when scoring by a massive 7.5L at Albury on Australia Day in 2021. Then having dealt with subsequent Group 2 winner Yaletown in the Canberra Guineas Preview, Molly Nails has shown she has the class to put her in the Kosciuszko picture. She has not raced since March but her Trainer Matthew Dale was quick to nominate her as a genuine Kosciuszko-class horse.

“She’s shown in her short career that she’s got that X-factor, she’s got a dynamic turn-of-foot.” Dale said. “Man of Peace is an old hard head with the runs on the board but if Molly Nails was to really impress us first-up, she could be definitely be the one.”

“She will kick off her prep next Saturday (4 September) at Randwick either in the TAB Highway (1200m) or the Mares Benchmark 78 (1100m).”

Molly Nails has shown immense promise in her short career beating Yaletown here by the slimmest of margins. Photo credit: Bradley Photos


Off To War- 4yo Mare

Trainer:                                             Neil Osborne

Record:                                              4: 2-2-0

Prizemoney:                                     $41,450

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               Currently not in TAB market

A fast mare with plenty of upside, Off To War has never finished worse than second in her four start career. Not yet in the Kosciuszko market with TAB, Trainer Neil Osborne concedes that she will need to produce an impressive display upon her return to attract the attention of slot holders. But Osborne is confident that he has a mare that is progressive enough to do so.

“The sky is really the limit with her at the moment. She could have easily won all four of her starts.” Osborne said.

“She’s come back into work now and she’s just terrific. She’ll most likely have two jump outs, the first in the next couple of weeks and we’ll ideally start her first up in a Highway. If she can win that impressively, who knows.”

Off To War has spent much of her spell at Aquagait Equine Centre utilising their world-class water walker.


Zelago - 5yo Gelding

Trainer:                                             Barbara Joseph, Paul & Matt Jones

Record:                                              27: 5-4-1

Prizemoney:                                     $144,665

Current TAB Fixed Odds:               Currently not in TAB market

Two years in a row, Barbara Joseph has bullishly tipped the Black Opal Stakes Cocktail Party crowd into Zelago, who was due to run around a fortnight later on John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Day. True to Barbara’s word, Zelago broke his maiden at a tidy price of $9 on John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Day in 2020 and a year later was too strong in a quality Benchmark 65 where he was well-backed at $4.60.

Now while the Joseph Jones Racing camp may not be as confident that he would win a race like the Kosciusko, he is certainly highly regarded internally.

Trainer Paul Jones says “He would need to improve a length or two to be a real hope but I don’t think it’s beyond him. He is a real 1200m specialist.”

“He will return to the trials in the coming weeks and hopefully turn some heads.”

Zelago winning the Canprint Communications Handicap on John McGrath Auto Group Black Opal Stakes Day 2021 Photo credit: Bradley Photos