Canberra's support shifts from tragedy to potential glory

Having felt the Canberra racing community's love through a devastatingly tough time, trainer Keith Dryden says that same support is now behind the ACT trainers taking on two of the biggest races in Australia.

An emotional Dryden accepted the Contribution to ACT Racing Industry award last week when he gave praise to the support he'd received from the whole community when his stable foreperson Riharna Thomson died from a track-work accident earlier in the year.

He gave special mention to fellow Canberra trainers Nick Olive and Matthew Dale for their support as he came to grips with the loss of a young employee.

Dryden said that same backing was now behind those two trainers as they embark on one of the biggest weeks in Canberra racing history.

Dale's Fell Swoop will run in the world's richest turf race, the $10 million Everest, at Randwick on Saturday, while Olive was preparing Single Gaze for the $3 million Caulfield Cup a week later.

Olive went to hospital with Dryden when Thomson was injured in March, while Olive and Dale were part of a Canberra racing community that have continued to check on Dryden's wellbeing since then.

"I had good support from the whole industry ... it's not easy losing one of your staff, especially on one of the horses you train, but those things happen unfortunately," Dryden said.

"Even now, especially Nick, and Matty and Gratzy [Vella], every time I run into them if I haven't seen them for a week or so they say, 'Are you alright? Everything going alright, are you OK?'

"Just good general support from the racing industry."

Now Dryden said that very same community was throwing its weight behind Dale and Olive ahead of their multi-million-dollar races.

Just minutes before Fell Swoop jumps in The Everest, where he will represent horse traders Inglis, Single Gaze will have her final hit-out before the Caulfield Cup in the group 1 Caulfield Stakes.

Dryden, who has had group winners himself, said simply getting into those races was an achievement in itself.

He said it also highlighted the talent and facilities in Canberra.

"I think the community is basically behind them. I know as a trainer I am. Some trainers get a bit jealous, but the way I look at it is it's bringing more interest into the ACT," Dryden said.

"It shows the people out there that we can train horses just as good as the other guys ... it just puts Canberra on the map."

While Dale has been in Moruya preparing Fell Swoop for the big race, his wife Amy has been in Canberra looking after their four children.

She'll take their young family to join him in Sydney on Friday and said Dale's decision to open a stable down the coast had come at the perfect time.

It allowed Dale to escape the pressure and just focus on getting his horse ready for the biggest race of their lives.

Amy said the support from the Canberra community had been amazing and the whole family was excited about the day.

While four-month-old Lara, might be too young to understand what's going on, two-year-old Billy has been "hanging out to go the races" with his dad and the eldest, five-year-old Amelie, has told her teacher she'll miss classes on Friday to go to The Everest.

"We couldn't have imagined ever being part of something so huge. It's like having a runner in a Melbourne Cup," Amy said.

"We feel privileged to have a runner. I'm just so thankful 'Ralph's' right and ready to run on Saturday.

"We got the slot so early on and there's a lot of pressure to keep the horse right for that long and to have him at his best on race day.

"There's been a huge build up, which has been awesome and very special to be a part of, we're just trying to soak it all in.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us ... this is huge, we're so excited."

The story Canberra's support shifts from tragedy to potential glory first appeared on Brisbane Times.

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