Listen To The Band qualifier-bound despite injury-scare

Jake Pracey-Holmes will keep the ride on the Clint Lundholm-trained Listen To The Band in next Sunday’s Western Districts qualifier at Coonamble. Photo: Racing Photography.

Clint Lundholm is the first to concede it hasn’t been an ideal preparation for Listen To The Band ahead of the 2024 Country Championships. 

With Coonamble’s $150,000 Western Districts qualifier fast approaching on March 17, the Dubbo trainer will be forced to start the nine-year-old first-up in the heat after a year off the scene.

The Tickets gelding has had two trials under his belt and was meant to go around in Saturday’s Listed Liverpool City Cup (1300m) at Royal Randwick. 

Unfortunately, at his most recent trial, over 1000m at Dubbo on February 18, Listen To The Band slipped after jumping well from gate one before storming home from last to finish second, beaten three-and-a-half lengths by stablemate Transplant.

The Dubbo galloper suffered some bruising, with Lundholm admitting it was touch-and-go for a short while before confirming that his Country Championships hopeful had come good and will trial again at Dubbo on Friday.

“We were pretty worried straight after the trial, but we gave him time and did what the vet said, and he’s had two gallops since,” Lundholm told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“The trackwork rider that rides him 96 per cent of the time is happy with him.

“We’ll give him a good blast off in the trial and treat it like a race, and after that, we’ll see how he pulls up and weigh up our options. 

“We wouldn’t run him if he weren’t 100%, and on the way he looks, I think he’ll make it to champs.”

Lundholm was so nervous after his trial mishap because Listen To The Band has a history of leg injuries. 

His last start was in the 2023 Western Districts qualifier, where he put in an incredible effort to win and defeat eventual Country Championships winner Sizzle Minizzle.

Making his win all the more incredible is the fact that he injured his foreleg, which required arthroscopic surgery, leading to an extended stint on the sidelines. 

Listen To The Band, who’s only started nine times, had tongues wagging in late 2022 and early 2023, winning four times in five starts, progressing from a maiden win at Warren to his epic Western Districts qualifier triumph.

Lundholm hopes they get to see the gelding’s best in this year’s qualifier, but he wished he had the chance to give Listen To The Band at least one run. 

“He won’t get a start, and he’ll have had three trials going into the qualifier, which probably isn’t ideal,” Lundholm said.

“He’s the x-factor horse, and he’s got the ability; I just hope to Christ that I can have him fit enough for Sunday week.”

Jake Pracey-Holmes, who’s won four times on the talented Dubbo galloper, has kept the ride despite Sam Clipperton, James Orman, and Tommy Berry planning a trip to Coonamble. 

“He deserves to keep the ride, especially with the hard work he has put in with the horse,” Lundholm said. 

“He’s won four of five races on him, and they get on well, and to be honest, it’s good for these jockeys to get a good ride, and Jake will give him every chance.” 

Joining Listen To The Band in the Western Districts qualifier is stablemate Transplant. 

The six-year-old is a four-time winner with 20 starts to her name, meaning she cannot have any more runs ahead of the Coonamble heat. 

The Pride of Dubai mare was ultra-impressive when winning a 1410m Benchmark 74 Handicap at Orange late last year and was freshened up with the Country Championships in mind. 

She’s trialled twice since the let-up, which includes the above-mentioned win over Listen To The Band, and was first-up in a 1200m Country Championships Preview at Scone on February 27. 

She was beaten just under five lengths by Sting Jet, and Lundholm said she would strip fitter for the Coonamble qualifier. 

“After she won that race at Orange, we realised she could only have one more start, so we gave her ten days in the paddock,” Lundholm said. 

“It was a good little freshen-up, and she’s had two nice trials and one start at Scone. 

“I wasn’t overly disappointed with the effort, and she was peaking on her run at 100m, and I think second-up into 1400m looks ideal for her.”

It’s set to be a very strong Western Districts qualifier, with the Brett Robb-trained Gallant Star the one to beat, while Dar Lunn will be racing the in-form Pants On Fire