Cream of the crop to meet in loaded Wagga Town Plate

Wagga Town Plate hopefuls (clockwise from top left) Handle The Truth, Mnementh, Art Cadeau, and Front Page.
Photos: Bradley Photos.

The crème de la crème of country sprinters, sprinkled with just the right number of Metropolitan, Provincial, and Victorian gallopers, will make Thursday’s Wagga Town Plate (1200m) the best in recent memory. 

The $200,000 race will more or less boast a Kosciuszko-calibre field, and I’d go as far as saying the quality of this year’s Wagga Town Plate rivals, if not exceeds any other feature sprint race held in Country NSW over the past five or six years. 

Now, I know I can be critical of Racing NSW and the impact of Metropolitan and Provincial trainers and their horses on country programs, but I’m happy to let bygones be bygones in this instance, and there’s a reason for that. 

Like the Grafton and Scone carnivals and the Muswellbrook, Bathurst, Albury, Tamworth, and Dubbo Cups, the Wagga two-day carnival has always been open slather, with big stables and star jockeys headlining both race days.

Now to the race, and where do we start? I could give a brief overview of 10 horses in this article and still miss the winner, but we’ll touch on some gallopers that make the race what it is – a true county racing spectacle.

It would be hard not to lead off with the old warrior, the Keith Dryden-trained Handle The Truth ($16), which has drawn wide with gate 16 while Robbie Dolan is on for the ride. 

Racing in the Laurel Oak Bloodstock colours, the seven-year-old has been a grand campaigner for his Canberra stable, starting 41 times for nine wins and ten placings while earning over $1.75 million in prize money. 

A two-time Highway winner, Handle The Truth quickly progressed to full Metropolitan grade before winning the Kosciuszko in 2019.

He boasts an unparalleled record in the Kosciuszko, and it will take a great horse to go close, with the tough sprinter subsequently finishing 4th to It’s Me (2020), 2nd to Art Cadeau (2021), and 7th to Front Page (2022).

Add to that, he’s ran 2nd and 3rd in the Goulburn Cup (2019 and 2020, respectively), and he finished 3rd in the Listed Starlight Stakes at Rosehill Gardens (2019) and 3rd in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes at Royal Randwick (2022).

On his home track, he won the 2021 National Sprint at Canberra before finishing 2nd to Another One in 2022. 

The Wagga Town Plate is one of the premier country sprint events that has eluded Handle The Truth after finishing 2nd to Marway (2021) and 5th to Front Page (2022). 

He might be a little longer in the tooth, but you’re a brave punter if you put a line through Handle The Truth. 

Deserved race favourite is Front Page ($4.20) from the Geoff Duryea yard, but the defending champion and jockey Tyler Schiller will have to contend with one of the widest draws, while the six-year-old will carry 61kg. 

Still, it’s hard to look past the Corowa galloper’s impeccable record. 

Light-raced with just 17 starts for six wins, Front Page won the Listed Creswick (2020) and following a bad run of luck, he came out and put pay to the Wagga Town Plate field of 2022, winning by 4.32 lengths. 

He’s the reigning Kosciuszko champion, and on those runs, he is the class horse in the field and the one to beat. 

Another champion country horse in Art Cadeau ($7.50) will go around for Nowra trainer Terry Robinson, with Brad Rawiller taking the ride from gate 10, but he too carries some eight (60.5kg)

The six-year-old has started 21 times for seven wins and eight placings, and he’s won all the big races for NSW country gallopers. 

A two-time Highway winner, Art Cadeau quickly rose to prominence in 2021, winning the South East Country Championships qualifier at Goulburn before winning the Country Championships final. 

Later that year, he backed up and won the Kosciuszko, proving his worth as a top-notch 1200m horse when holding Handle The Truth to 0.18 of a length. 

He’s since raced in town, and last start, he finished fifth to Front Page in the 2022 Kosciuszko.

One runner that gets in better in the weights and with a cosier draw is the Richard and Will Freedman-trained Ang Pow (Jeff Penza, $6).

A lightly-raced four-year-old with nine starts for five wins, he burst onto the scene with back-to-back wins at Tamworth and Bathurst in late 2021. 

Last prep, he won the Jungle Juice Cup (1350m) at Newcastle before a Metropolitan victory at Eagle Farm. 

The bookies love the Sydney galloper, installing him as the second favourite.

He oozes potential, but it remains to be seen if he can compete with some of these hardened sprinters over the six furlongs. 

A smoky has to be the Barbara Joseph, Matt and Paul Jones-trained Super Helpful (Louise Day, $31). 

The 2022 Snake Gully Cup winner is proven over 1200m, and he can lead and come from off the pace.

The seven-time winner isn’t proven at this grade but based on his 2nd in the Bathurst Panorama (2022), his Snake Gully Cup win, and even his 4th in the National Sprint (2022), he is a significant danger.

I know there is a boatload of other horses and significant players. 

The John Thompson-trained Surreal Step (James Innes Jnr, $7.50) looks like a top-three chance on his Group and Listed form, and gate 10 isn’t the worst draw in this race.

Testator Silens (Josh Richards, $13) from the Luke Clarke yard is built tough, and he’s performed at this level, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pop up. 

Rocket Tiger (Shaun Guymer, $10) bounced back to form last start for Scott Spackman, and it would be a dream result for the Wagga galloper. 

Mitch Beer will start popular galloper Mnementh (Winona Costin, $12), which finished second in this race last year. 

Either way punters look at the field, there are chances galore, and the Wagga Town Plate is a testament to the strength of NSW Country racing at this current time. 

The race headlines day one of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club’s Wagga Gold Cup Carnival on Thursday, while on Friday, there is the $200,000 Wagga Wagga Gold Cup, $80,000 Murrumbidgee Turf Club Guineas (1600m), $75,000 Queen of the South (1400m).

For Thursday’s fields, click here.

For Friday’s fields, click here.

For markets on both race days, visit Thunderbet.