Friday, March 4, 2011

Clerk's Choice could prove a value Champion each-way bet

On bare form the Michael Banks-trained Clerk's Choice has to find about 10lbs worth of improvement if he is to be in their pitching at the business end of the Stan James Champion Hurdle on March 15, the opening day of the four-day jump racing showpiece fixture, writes Elliot Slater.

It's been a while since a small yard has had a horse good enough to potentially win the Champion Hurdle, (Flakey Dove for the Price family springs to mind, and she went on to win the crown back in 1994), so it is good for racing and the grass roots of the industry that owner/trainer Banks has a horse even worthy of his place in the line-up. Those looking at the Queen Mother Champion Chase odds may want to consider a bet on the Champion Hurdle instead.

Originally trained on the Flat by Newmarket handler William Jarvis for whom he proved a decent handicapper at around a mile-and-a-quarter, the Bachelor Duke gelding joined Banks' Cambridgeshire yard in winter 2009 and after running third on his hurdles bow in March of last year rattled up a superb four-timer, the last of which was in October at Cheltenham where he trounced Royal Mix by a stunning 21-lengths in the Hurdle.

The handicapper saw fit to raise Clerk's Choice by a massive 31lbs for that win, and in much higher grade he finished fourth to Carlito Brigante the following month when an odds-on chance, before occupying the same position when running a much better race to be beaten just nine-lengths by Menorah in the International Hurdle, fading only in the last 150 yards.

The key to Clerk's Choice is decent ground. If the going is good (even good to soft in places), he is a very decent horse, but doesn't really operate when the ground is on the soft side. Should the course at Cheltenham dry out then odds of up to 80/1 might prove tempting to risk a few pounds each-way on a horse who clearly has plenty of ability.

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