Horses To Follow » Clerk’s Choice

Clerk’s Choice

There is a chance that the performance that Clerk’s Choice put up in winning the four-year-old hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday will be under-rated, given that he is trained by the largely unheralded Michael Banks, also his owner, and that he was allowed go off an easy-to-back 14/1 shot on his first step up from Class 4 company, but it may be a mistake to do so. Held up out the back in the early stages behind a fairly frenetic pace that was set by habitual tear away Barizan, he travelled really well on the outside for Tom Molloy, made nice progress on the way down the hill, joined Barizan on the run around the home turn, and quickened right away to power up the hill and win by 14 lengths.

There is a chance that Barizan went off a little too fast, spurred on by the early attentions of My Brother Sylvest, but you could have said that Evan Williams’s gelding went off too fast in the Triumph Hurdle, and in the champion four-year-old hurdles run at Aintree and Punchestown last season, yet he won one of them and finished second in the other two. As such, he set a really high standard for this race, and it is difficult to argue that he did not perform up to his ability. Royal Mix, who just beat Barizan for second, also looks like a useful recruit, a Paul Nicholls-trained French recruit, a winner on the flat at Deauville, who won a juvenile hurdle at Newbury last November on his only previous run for Nicholls, beating Me Voici into second place, and that horse went and won the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow by 10 lengths on his subsequent start.

A winner of a Class 3 handicap at Sandown on the flat for William Jarvis, Clerk’s Choice was beaten on his debut over hurdles at Huntingdon last March, but he has now won all four of his subsequent races. He completed his hat-trick in fairly ordinary contests during the spring, and he was taking a huge step up in grade on Saturday, but he proved that he was well up to the step up. There was no fluke about the win, the form looks rock solid and the winning time was really good. The handicapper has raised him 31lb to a mark of 162, which is the handicapper gone mad (Binocular was only rated 163 before he won the Champion Hurdle in March) and which probably rules out a tilt at the Greatwood Hurdle for him now. However, there is a four-year-old hurdle race at Haydock next month, the race in which Mr Thriller beat Starluck last year after Starluck had won Saturday’s contest, and that would be an ideal target for Clerk’s Choice now as long as the ground doesn’t come up too soft. Looking further ahead, it can be tough for four-year-old hurdlers when they take on their elders, but he may not be too far off the top hurdlers later in the season, and the fact that he is proven at Cheltenham is no liability to have to carry.

16th October 2010

© The Irish Field, 23rd October 2010