Listen To The Band has already been earmarked as the fairytale story of the Newhaven Park Country Championships series in 2023 and jockey Jake Pracey-Holmes says it deserves to continue on to Royal Randwick.
The eight-year-old’s amazing tale has already been told by trainer Clint Lundholm a number of times in the lead up to Sunday’s $150,000 Newhaven Park WRA Country Championships (1400m) at Coonamble but all associated with the horse marvel at the journey so far.
He didn’t debut until he was five and after three starts had two years off with injury.
Lundholm wasn’t sure he’d even make it back to the track when he came into the Dubbo trainer’s care – it was only December 9 when he stepped out for his first trial since that break – but in the space of three months he’s on the cusp of a shot at a $500,000 race.
Pracey-Holmes has partnered the gelding in four of his five starts this preparation, including a luckless defeat at Orange that clearly haunts him, and he said he was as surprised as anyone when he first sat on the horse sight unseen in the trial.
“I wish (Clint) had told me the horse pulled because I just bowled along on the way to the barriers and the next thing I couldn’t stop it,’’ he said.
“I wish he’d told me something, he just went ‘give him a dig out and see what you reckon’.
“The first time I trialled him I saw it. He’s a winner, he’s got the will to win.
“It’s a real Championships story. He’s an eight-year-old who broke down, he’s only had a few starts, the owners gave him every chance. It’s a good story.
“He’s taken a step every time we’ve asked him. Two more steps, we’ll get over this step and worry about the next step.”
Lundholm has a remarkable 10 acceptors in the feature, including an emergency, but as that last comment illustrates Pracey-Holmes is confident he’s on the headliner and a genuine chance of taking him to his third Country Championships Final.
He won the Western District race as an apprentice in 2017 on another fairytale horse Stoneyrise and again in 2018 on Good Host.
Listen To The Band made his debut for Lundholm at Warren a week before Christmas and knocked over his maiden by five lengths.
Since that forgettable, as far as Pracey-Holmes would prefer, second-up run at Orange he’s gone from strength to strength with easy wins at Dubbo and Parkes prior to taking out the Preview at Dubbo on February 13 where he defeated Sunday’s rivals Boom Boom Basil and Amulet Street.
“I didn’t want to push him because I was scared of him over racing,’’ he said of the latest win.
“As soon as I got to the front and the other horse dropped off me he fell asleep then when I asked him he produced.”
One box Listen To The Band hasn’t ticked is the 1400m but he hasn’t yet been asked to run it and that’s not even registering as a concerned for his bullish jockey.
An outside barrier may prove more of an issue but he said he’ll just weigh up the race as he sees it and ride him accordingly, adamant the other 13 horses will have to beat him.
“I think he will run it out. I’m not worried about it. I think I’m on the horse to beat. I’m more thinking about him winning the Final,” he said.
“The story behind him just makes everything. The owners just wanted to win a race with him but all of a sudden look where we are now.”
The horse is a $26 chance to win the Final and was $4 favourite on Thursday to make it to Royal Randwick on April 1 and keep the dream alive.
– Racing NSW