Kosciuszko champion eyes Galaxy glory

Tyler Schiller gives the Royal Randwick crowd the two-finger salute after guiding Front Page to back-to-back The Kosciuscko victories late last year. Image – Bradley Photos.

Country-trained champion and back-to-back Kosciusko winner Front Page will return to the track on Saturday. 

First up from a 14-week let-up, the seven-year-old will contest the $1 million Group 1 Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens. 

It will be a tall ask to take on the likes of Private Eye, Ozzmosis, Aft Cabin, and Uncommon James, but Dale said Front Page is “going every bit as well as The Kosciuszko”.

A seven-time winner, having earned connections over $2.5 million in prize money, Front Page is a country owner’s dream. 

Despite pushing eight, Dale said the lightly raced 21-start veteran was going as good as ever leading into another preparation. 

“Colts and geldings throughout the years that didn’t race too much at two and three, like this fella, they’ve raced at their peak at seven, eight, and nine sometimes,” Dale said. 

“We weren’t looking towards retirement anytime soon, and he’ll tell us. At this stage, he’s coming up, and I think he’ll be very competitive in a race like the Galaxy first-up.”

While the Magnus gelding is yet to prove himself in Group 1 company, Dale believes the Galaxy is the perfect starting point. 

“Where his rating’s at now, in a Group 3, he’s sort of up around 58.5 or 59kg, and in a Group 1, based on the last three years, he’ll be somewhere between 52.5kg and 55kg,” Dale said. 

“We’ve got Tyler Schiller booked to ride, so we cover all those bases if he does get the nice, low weight.”

Dale was on the money, with Front Page allotted 52.5kg, and Schiller will guide him from an awkward draw (gate 16).

Still, the result won’t be the be-all and end-all, with the Goulburn trainer keeping his options open heading into the Sydney and Brisbane autumn racing seasons. 

“We’ll wait and see what happens in the Galaxy,” Dale said.

“Nothing is set, but pretty much between Sydney and Brisbane, the options look to lie, and there are a fair few options, so we won’t lock in anything.

“The Galaxy is his first-up assignment, and we will react off that.”

Trained previously by the now-retired Geoff Duryea, the same ownership group chose Dale to train Front Page ahead of the 2023 The Kosciuszko. 

After winning the $2 million country-restricted feature in October, Dale said he knows much more about the horse heading into another exciting preparation.

“We just learnt a lot about the horse: how much work he needs or doesn’t need to get fit, little idiosyncrasies with his feet and work regimes, and what he likes and doesn’t like,” Dale said. 

“Even though we were well-versed from Geoff Duryea last time with different things, when you see it firsthand, it really rubber stamps it.

“I feel like we’re more on the front foot this time in regards to keeping him sound and happy and having him fit without doing too much work with him.”

Dale and Duryea have maintained a dialogue since the horse moved from Corowa to Goulburn, and Dale said his association with the rising eight-year-old has only made him a bigger fan of the popular country sprinter. 

“We talk from time to time, and I send out the weekly updates, which keeps all the owners informed, and then we touch base on different little things we want to discuss going forward,” Dale said. 

“It was a great result winning his second Kosciuszko, and we were so lucky to receive him to train. 

“I really gained a big appreciation of the horse and even more of an appreciation when he pulled off that Kosciusko for us.

“Knowing the different little things that he has to overcome and what he brings on race day, he’s a very good horse.”

It will be a big day at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, with the Galaxy running hot on the heels of the $5 million Golden Slipper. 

Before then, Dale will be focusing on the Albury Carnival. 

Among his chances on Thursday and Friday, Goulburn trainer has Kiptanui (Nick Heywood) in the $50,000 Albury Mile (1600m) and Toretto (Olivia Chambers) in the $75,000 City Handicap (1175m).