Horses To Follow » Clever Cookie

Clever Cookie

Clever Cookie put up a really likeable performance to win the 10-furlong handicap that opened proceedings at York’s Dante meeting on Wednesday. Peter Niven’s horse was admittedly advantaged by being held up off a fast early pace, but even so, other fancied horses were held up in behind as well, and Clever Cookie travelled like the most likely winner from a fair way out.

Slowly away and dropped in early from his wide draw in stall 17, the son of Premo Valentino travelled in the rear four through the early stages of the race, and he was no better than third last or fourth last as they passed the four-furlong pole. He made stealthy progress up the home straight on the near side, however, under a motionless Graham Lee, who just picked his way neatly through his field. Still on the bridle a furlong and a half out, he tracked through behind Awake My Soul as that rival hit the front, moved through a gap between that rival and Spirit Of The Law, and picked up impressively when Lee asked him to win, going away, by three parts of a length.

Although he is six years old, this was just Clever Cookie’s second ever run on the flat, and he is now two for two. He is also two for two in bumpers, and he won three of his six hurdle race and finished second in two of the others. He completed a hat-trick of wins over hurdles when he landed a Grade 2 contest at Kelso in March and, after disappointing inexplicably in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr last month, he got his flat career off to a winning start when won a 12-furlong maiden at Doncaster two weeks later.

Rated 144 now over hurdles, he was entitled to run well in Wednesday’s race off a Flat mark of just 88, but his performance may not get due credit. He won with more in hand than the three-parts-of-a-length winning margin, and the winning time was really good, the fastest comparative time on Musidora Stakes day at York, and more than a second faster than the Musidora itself. The handicapper will obviously have his say now, but he really can’t be too hard on him given that he only got home by three parts of a length and the same.

His trainer mentioned the Ebor as a possibility afterwards, and that would make a lot of sense, especially given how important course form can be at York. He showed a lot of pace to win here, but he won his maiden over a mile and a half, and he stayed two miles well in bumpers and over hurdles, so there is every chance that he could stay a mile and six furlongs on the flat. He handled this easy-ish ground well, he has won on good ground and he won his maiden on soft, and he should continue to progress now on the Flat. He is a six-year-old, but he is still a relatively lightly-raced six-year-old, and he could still be a well-handicapped horse even off his new mark when he is re-assessed next week.

14th May 2014