When Vinolass hit the ground running in late 2022, Keith Dryden knew he had a good filly on his hands.
Raced by an all-female syndicate, owned primarily in country NSW, the Supido filly raced well on heavy nine at Wagga in October of that year, cruising to a nearly two-length win in a 1000m Maiden Plate.
Vinolass then went to the paddock before returning bigger and better in 2023.
First-up, she raced at Canberra in March, putting away a good field in the 1000m Class One Handicap, defeating the now four-time winner Chief Commander by a length.
Later that month, she stepped up in class again and was sensational when putting close to six lengths on the field in the 1008m Benchmark 58 Handicap at the Sapphire Coast.
Connections turned down reasonable offers for Vinolass and decided to send her to the paddock, hoping she might develop into the stable’s new Kosciuszko horse, but that’s when injury struck.
“She hurt her foot out in the paddock,” Dryden told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“She chopped her hoof away, and we had to let it grow to get a shoe on her, and it took a while.”
Vinolass will return in the 1100m Benchmark 72 Handicap for mares at Warwick Farm on Wednesday, and the Canberra galloper hasn’t been missed by punters, firming in from $3.50 to $3.20.
Dryden said the money was mere speculation, as he has yet to test Vinolass with another horse since she raced 11 months ago.
“Don’t get me wrong, she’s worked well, and she has a fair bit of ability, but I don’t think she is quite ready, and my concern is that she might be a bit underdone”, Dryden said.
“She’s had seven or eight months off, she hasn’t worked against a horse, and she’s had no trial.
“There haven’t been barrier trials on in this area lately, and because they have been having twilight meetings, they don’t have time after the last, so I’ve done what I can do, and she’ll be competitive, but I think there is improvement to be made.”
When asked why he opted to start Vinolass in town, Dryden said the mare was good enough but explained that his hands were tied due to her high rating.
“There is just nothing in the country for her; she’s rated at 69, and if you can find me a 1000m Benchmark 74, I’ll go there,” Dryden said.
“That’s the problem with this Benchmark system. Once you get over 65, they want you to go to town, and they force us there to fill up the fields.
“Those mid-weeks have seven, eight, or nine-horse fields.”
Making it more challenging for Dryden and connections is that Canberra horses are automatically at the bottom of the ballot for the $120,000 Highway Handicaps and Plates, which are run in town each Saturday.
A Highway would be the natural progression for a mare like Vinolass, but Dryden’s horses are often balloted from the country-restricted event.
“We can’t go to Highways, and if she doesn’t win tomorrow, there is a 1000m Class Three at Randwick in a few weeks, and that would be perfect, and we’ll put her in that, but she won’t get a run,” Dryden said.
“I know she would go into a race like that for $3.50 or $4, but I can’t understand why they would rather have four or five going around at 100/1; that can’t be good for turnover.
“The thing is, it is costing us horses and owners; I had an owner tell me the other day that if we can’t go in Highways, he is not going to buy in; it’s not good.”
Despite his frustration, Dryden will turn his attention to Wednesday’s race at Warwick Farm, where Vinolass has drawn well with gate two while Zac Lloyd has landed the ride.
The stable also has Acheson (Alysha Collett) in the $100,000 Maiden Plate (1200m), which comes up against fellow country galloper Man From Brussels (Mathew Cahill) from the Michael Lynch yard.
In the $60,000 Maiden Plate (1300m), two country trainers will try their luck, with Muswellbrook’s Cassandra Stummer racing Sensitive Soul (Mitchell Bell) and Taree’s Colin Hughes setting Temple Bells (Beany Panya) for the race.
Dean Mirfin also treks to town with last-start Parkes winner Island Press, which takes on the 1400m Benchmark 72 Handicap.