By Ray Hickson
Clint Lundholm figures it’s about time he qualified a horse for the Country Championships Final.
With that in mind, the popular Dubbo trainer has prepared what he says is his strongest quartet of horses – one purpose bought, one stacked with talent straight out of maiden company and a couple of handy campaigners – in an effort to make it to Randwick next month.
Dreadlock, Sprezzatura, Joey’s Destiny and Tuncoona represent the 28-year-old in Sunday’s $150,000 WRA Country Championships Qualifier (1400m) at Dubbo.
“We’re hoping, it’s 12 months in the running trying to get everything right for the one day,’’ Lundholm said.
“There’s a couple of dangers in there to be worried about but we’re confident our horses are going to be tough to get past as well.’’
Lundholm wasn’t represented in last year’s Qualifier, back in 2016 he finished third and fourth with Farewell Julia and Any Blinkin’ Day, who started favourite, while he had three unplaced runners in 2015.
He said Dreadlock, Sprezzatura and Joey’s Destiny had been earmarked long ago to tackle this year’s race while Tuncoona earned her way there with a string of good performances in the spring.
Of the quartet it’s clear Lundholm has plenty of time for the last start maiden winner Sprezzatura, who finally broke through on Championships day at Mudgee at his 11th attempt.
“Everyone calls him promising but he has been a headache,’’ he said.
“He always runs to them and lets something get back to him on the line. We’ve been pulling our hair out to win that race to get into the Country Championships.
“He’s a horse that has a lot of ability but seems to have a lot of tricks.’’
The four-year-old conceded weight and a decent head start to his rivals at Mudgee and rounded them up but he didn’t make it look easy.
The Qualifier is a Class 5 race but Lundholm sees that as a positive.
“I think you’ll find he’ll run a bigger race in a classier race than he would in a maiden. I think you’ll find he will really shine,’’ he said.
“He’s earned his spot in there and will be rattling home late.’’
Dreadlock could fall into the frustrating category a bit like Sprezzatura as he’s won two races but finished 11 seconds in his 18 starts.
But Lundholm said he’s proven himself with placings in races like the Dubbo Cup and, although he had to miss a run at Coonamble recently, he worked well on the Dubbo course proper on Tuesday.
“He’s been a consistent horse for us. He always seems to find one better on the day but he is a big strong horse and a good quality galloper,’’ he said.
“It hasn’t been the best of preparations but he’s fit and well at home. He’ll be there as good as we can have him.’’
Tuncoona and Joey’s Destiny did make it to Coonamble and they finished second and fourth respectively in the 1300m Preview on March 12.
Sprezzatura's impressive win at Mudgee on February 25
Lundholm considers them both a slight risk at the 1400m but said their honesty says they can’t be overlooked.
“They’ve had two runs back and both are stretching to their maximum distances,’’ he said.
“Joey’s two runs back have been perfect trials, he’s carried big weights and hasn’t been far off them.
“I think he’s ticking over nicely and Greg (Ryan) sticking with him is a great incentive that he’s going well.
“I couldn’t ask anything more of Tuncoona in her last two runs, stepping out to 1200m and 1300m in her last two and hitting the line both times.’’
When Lundholm won a Highway with Larlabrook in February last year one of his personal goals was to have a photo taken with Sky Racing personality Ron Dufficy.
That happy snap still rates very highly but is in grave danger of being surpassed as a highlight if he wins a ticket to Randwick for the $500,000 Country Championships Final (1400m) on April 7.
“This would top it if we can get a Country Championships winner at home,’’ he said.