Long time between drinks as Fangela breaks through at Canberra

The Keith Dryden-trained Fangela, ridden by Brendan Ward, broke through for a win at Canberra on Friday. Image – Thoroughbred Park.

For the connections of the Keith Dryden-trained Fangela, Friday’s win at Canberra was well overdue. 

While the six-year-old is a seven-time winner, the ever-consistent 22-start veteran was close to 14 months between drinks when saluting by over a length in the $34,000 TAB Federal (1200m).

Talking to successful jockey Brendan Ward, Dryden touched on what the result meant to connections. 

“It was well-ridden, and you’ve made these people very happy. They’ve only waited 12 months for you to do that,” Dryden laughed. 

Raced by Laurel Oak Bloodstock amongst a large group of owners, Fangela sent fans on a thrilling journey during his first 12 starts, winning on six occasions. 

Meticulously placed by Dryden, The Factor gelding went through the grades, winning his maiden at Moruya in 2020 before wins at the Sapphire Coast in 2021 and Nowra and Canberra in 2022.

In the most significant victory of his career, Fangela took out the $50,000 Country Magic Benchmark 74 Handicap (1200m) during the 2022 Wagga Gold Cup carnival. 

Following a strong Open Handicap (1200m) win at Canberra in late 2022, the sky was the limit for the talented sprinter, who was being spruiked as a Kosciuszko hopeful alongside his more illustrious stablemate, Handle The Truth.

From there, Fangela couldn’t avoid Open Handicap class racing in the country. He was tested in Provincial and Metropolitan races at his next three starts, finishing with a second at Kembla Grange in July. 

That would lead to a frustrating run of results in the bush, with Fangela running second to Rylan’s Pick in the 1100m Flying Handicap at Dubbo in September before back-to-back Minor Placings in Opening Handicaps over 1200m and 1000m, respectively, on his home track in September and October.

Add to that an excellent second placing in the 1000m Open Handicap at Wagga and a fifth-place finish in the Tuckerbox at Gundagai last month, and it appeared the gelding would continue to knock on the door of a breakthrough win. 

Fangela ($7) then came out and ended his nine-race winless run on his home track, and the secret appears to have been Ward’s return to the saddle.

The popular jockey had a record of two rides for two wins on the grey gelding, and he was given a chance at home to make it three from three for connections.

The pair commenced moderately from gate eight and were caught three deep with cover for most of the run before peeling five wide and unleashing a strong run to win by more than a length from an excellent field of country sprinters.

With the blinkers on, Ward believes it made all the difference. 

“He didn’t want to pull with the shades, so I just came out neutral and let him settle where he was happy,” Ward said. 

“We were behind the speed three deep with cover, and he really hit the line strongly, considering it had 61kg on its back. 

“That was a good quality field today, I thought; it was a good effort.”

On a reasonably warm day in Canberra, there was some hot racing, and Nick Olive made the trip from Queanbeyan to score a winning double. 

The stable won the first event with Miss Stalwart (Quayde Krogh, $2.70), an excellent winner in the 1200m Maiden Handicap before Final Comment (Nick Heywood, $3.10) saluted in the 1600m Benchmark 65 Handicap.

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