Keith Dryden will unleash up-and-coming gallopers Eastern Glow (Tyler Schiller, $7) and Trooper Knuckle (Amy McLucas, $8) in town on Saturday, with the progressive pair contesting the 1500m Class Three Highway Handicap at Rosehill Gardens.
Eastern Glow – a four-year-old son by Your Song out of Angel of Avalon – has started four times for three wins with Billy Owen in the saddle on each occasion.
The youngster was ultra-impressive last preparation, finishing second on debut at Canberra before recording wins at Queanbeyan and Goulburn.
After a 20-week spell, Eastern Glow came out and won first-up at Moruya on December 18, and he was meant to contest a good race at Moruya on January 2, but Dryden instead opted for Saturday’s $120,000 race in town.
“I took the punt that he would get a run in Sydney,” Dryden said.
“I had him in at Moruya last week, and if he had won that race, he wouldn’t have been eligible for a Highway.
“We knew this 1500m Highway was coming up, and it’s hard to get a run being a Canberra trainer, but I didn’t think they would get as many nominations, so we put him in, and he was lucky enough to get a run.”
The sky looks to be the limit for Eastern Glow, who is owned by Laurel Oak Bloodstock.
“I have trained for Laurel Oak for 30 years, and trained a lot of winners for them, and they do like their horses to race in town if they get the opportunity,” Dryden said.
“All being fair, he should go close on Saturday.”
Trooper Knuckle – a five-year-old by The Brothers War and out of Knucklemania – is also a three-time winner, with the bay gelding winning three on the trot at Queanbeyan late last year before finishing second at Canberra last start in the 1400m Benchmark 70 TAB Federal.
While Dryden was leaning towards Eastern Glow in Saturday’s 1500m country-only event, he rated Trooper Knuckle’s chances.
“He is going well, racing well, and he is only a little fella, but his form is impeccable, and I think he will go to the paddock after this run,” Dryden said.
“He is also owned by a long-time client of mine, and they love racing and couldn’t care if we raced Gulargambone or Sydney, but they will be thrilled to have a runner in town.
“I fancy Eastern Glow over Trooper Knuckle, but he is not without running a decent race, that’s for sure.”
While Trooper Knuckle is bound for the paddock, Dryden is keeping one eye on the upcoming $500,000 Country Championships for Eastern Glow.
If the Canberra galloper happens to win at Rosehill Gardens, Dryden will make plans for the South East Racing Association qualifier, with the $150,000 race set to be held at Moruya on March 5.
“This year it is on at Moruya, but as a trainer in Canberra, it is hard to get our horses in,” Dryden said.
“Out of all the trainers in the ACT, only two horses are allowed in the Country Championships, and you need a top-rated horse to get a run.
“If he is to get a run, he will need to win Saturday’s Highway and maybe one more race to secure a run because I think you are going to need a 76-rated horse from the ACT to have any chance.
“Still, that’s where he will be headed if he wins, but I’m not spruiking him as a Country Championships horse just yet.”
For the Saturday’s Highway Handicap field click here.