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Dryden duo ready for their shot at Listed level

Keeping horses performing is like building a house with the right foundation, every door and window in place that open and shut as you wish.

That's the time-honoured philosophy of veteran and long-respected Canberra trainer Keith Dryden as he plans another double-barrelled assault on the Listed National Sprint at Thoroughbred Park over 1400m this Sunday.

Part of a bumper 10-race extravaganza on Black Opal day,  Dryden still remains cautious stepping up his tough and honest pair Fangela and Demanding Mo from their recent Quinella finish in the National Sprint Preview, run at Benchmark 89 level over 1200m.

While Demanding Mo held off his far more fancied stablemate that day, you get the feeling it's the six-year-old grey Fangela carrying the stable torch.

"He's come through the Preview run really well, in fact it's the happiest I've been with him in a long time," Dryden told me this week.

Still lightly raced with a rock solid near 30 percent winning strike rate from only 24 starts, there's justified confidence Fangela can hit a second-up peak off an eight week break getting to 1400m, naturally against a much tougher field.

"He's won over 1300m, and always indicated to me he will run out a strong 1400m," Dryden said. "We know he's fit, loves racing at home, and if he can pop into a handy spot on speed, we're expecting a big run, at least top five and hopefully into a place.

"Obviously this is going to be tougher, but he's generally raced well when I've taken him to Sydney, so we are going in with as much confidence as possible.

"Training horses is like building houses, you need a good foundation, the right doors and windows to open and shut, and this is a horse with a strong foundation."

Dryden was also quick to praise evergreen jockey Brendan Ward who has built a real affinity with Fangela, including his first win way back in August 2020 at Moruya, and his latest, a BM 82 Federal success early last December.

"Brendan Ward continues to ride him very well, and he's riding well at the moment," the trainer added.

By American Group 1 winner The Factor, Fangela has only missed a place six times in those 24 starts, with four of his wins coming on firm ground, and the other three in soft going.

As for Fangela's longer-priced seven-year-old stablemate and Preview winner Demanding Mo, Dryden believes the market may underestimate him at its own peril.

Shooting for a third straight win after previously claiming a BM 82 at Wagga, Dryden describes him as a front-running and low maintenance galloper.

"You don't have to do much with him, just keep him up to the mark, in fact I train him like a two-year-old.

"Of course this will be tough, but if he finds the front easy enough and kicks strong, he may take some catching."

One thing we know, Demanding Mo - also boasting a healthy 23 percent winning strike rate from 28 starts - never shirks the task, having finished no further back then second in his last four.

Dryden won the National Sprint with Handle The Truth in 2021 clocking a record 1.21.63 mins, and before that with Tougherthantherest in 2018 while in partnership with Scott Collings.

Otherwise the last decade has been dominated by leading metropolitan stables, especially the Snowden yard at Randwick which has claimed three of the last nine.

And like many, the wily trainer believes turning the 2-day carnival into one Sunday  bonanza will only enhance the race's formline reputation.

By Neil Evans.


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