Elson Boy proves too gallant in Western Districts qualifier

The Dar Lunn-trained Elson Boy (inside) held off the Brett Robb-trained Gallant Star (outside) to win Sunday’s $150,000 Western Districts Country Championships qualifier at Coonamble. Image: Racing Photography.

You couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Popular Western District’s identity Dar Lunn – a self-described battler – upstaged a few big names in country racing at Coonamble on Sunday. 

Racing the in-form Elson Boy, Lunn scored one of, if not the most significant victory of his career when taking out the $150,000 Western Districts Country Championships qualifier.

With Tommy Berry in the saddle, the Sydney-based hoop rated the four-year-old perfectly in front, making every post a winner before holding on for the gutsiest of wins. 

In a compelling finish, where Elson Boy ($11) beat off the Clint Lundholm-trained Listen To The Band (Jake Pracey-Holmes, $5), the Brett Robb-trained Gallant Star (Sam Clipparton, $1.60) had one last crack at them.

As the pair hit the line, race caller Col Hodges held back from declaring a winner and following a nervous few minutes, the judge’s decision came through, and Elson Boy had got the bob in to win by a flared nostril from Gallant Star while in third and only a head back was Listen To The Band. 

“I thought I might have got beat right on the line,” Lunn said after the race. 

“I knew I was in front off the line, but on the line, I thought I could have got beat.”

Lunn’s yard has been in flying form, with Elson Boy leading his stable’s recent charge.

A five-time winner from 18 starts, Lunn said he had plans to win this qualifier with Elson Boy after he broke through for a maiden victory at Orange in March.

“Only 12 months ago, he won a maiden at Orange, and we drew the extreme outside. I said to Jake Pracey Holmes, who rode him, ‘Go forward and lead on him, and he did, and he won nice.’

“We tipped him out after that for this race, and he’s come back and hasn’t put a foot wrong since he’s been back.”

Lunn praised Berry, who was thrilled to be in Coonamble and riding for the Dubbo trainer. 

“Dar gave me a lot of confidence before the race,” Berry said. 

“He said to be really positive, and I said, ‘You do know Jake Pracey-Holmes has drawn inside of us’. I’ve not led him yet, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, keep the pressure on him, you’ll lead him’.
“He said he (Elson Boy) is tough and will keep giving for you. To be honest, I never felt the winner anywhere bar the last 100m, and he felt the rest of them come up to him and was just way too good.”

Berry is hoping he’ll keep the ride in next month’s rich final.

“This guy has been placed really well to get him to the final, and I haven’t got one for the final yet, so I guess I’ve got one now,” Berry said.

Elson Boy and Gallant Star will head to the $1 Country Championships million final at Royal Randwick on April 6. 

For the time being, the Northern Wildcard qualifier at Scone will be held on Friday ahead of the Southern Wildcard qualifier at Goulburn on Sunday. 

For more on the 2024 Country Championships, click here