Permit holder and Jockey Club member Michael Banks is hoping that Clerk’s Choice can continue his meteoric rise up the hurdling ranks with victory in the £40,000 Betfair iPhone & Android App Hurdle (1.50pm) at Haydock Park on the first day of the Northwest Masters, Saturday, 20 November.
This year’s Champion Hurdle winner Binocular triumphed in the two-mile contest for four-year-olds in 2008 and Banks’ charge has already marked himself as a potential future champion with an emphatic 21-length victory over the likes of Royal Mix and Grade One scorer Barizan at Cheltenham on 16 October.
Banks, former chairman of Huntingdon racecourse, revealed: “We are hoping to send Clerk’s Choice to Haydock providing the ground is not too soft. If there was a lot of rain, then we would have to think about it, but the intention is to run and he worked very well on Tuesday morning.
“I was over the moon with his run at Cheltenham but there was no pressure on us because we were going there to find out how good he was. Now that he has won like that, there is a bit of pressure back on us.
“This looks the only real option for him at the moment because otherwise we would have to go for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle the following weekend, for which he would be a very doubtful runner. We will jump one hurdle at a time and hopefully head to Cheltenham for the International Hurdle after Saturday.
“I am hoping that there will bit of a pace on as we wouldn’t like a crawl but it shouldn’t be a worry because of his Flat form. We are having a lot of fun with him at the moment and, hopefully, but by around two o’clock on Saturday we will have had a bit more fun and we shall be a very happy chap!”
A classy entry of 10 for the Betfair iPhone & Android App Hurdle also includes the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti, who was a ready winner of the Grade Two Persian War Novices’ at Chepstow on 23 October.
Barizan, successful in the Grade One Punchestown Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, may line up for trainer Evan Williams, while the second from that race, Carlito Brigante, could make the journey over form Ireland for Co Meath handler Gordon Elliott.
The highlight of Saturday’s seven-race card is the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase (3.25pm), which is set to feature this year’s Grade One totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander, who was beaten a nose by Kauto Star in a thrilling finish to the Betfair Chase 12 months ago.
The 10 five-day confirmations for the three-mile contest also include dual Grade One scorer What A Friend, whose trainer Paul Nicholls has sent out three winners of the Betfair Chase since the race’s inception in 2005, and the Tom George-trained Nacarat, successful in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his latest start.
Other notable contenders include Multiple Grade One winner Albertas Run, from the stable of Jonjo O’Neill, last season’s Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup scorer Planet Of Sound, representing Philip Hobbs, and the Lucinda Russell-trained Silver By Nature, who landed the race now know as the Grade Three totesport.com Grand National Trial at Haydock in February.
A bumper entry of 36 for the £75,000 Listed 40% Better Off On Betfair SP “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle (2.50pm) over three miles, includes last year’s Welsh National winner Dream Alliance and Grand Crus, who easily scored in a Cheltenham handicap hurdle on Sunday.
The day commences at 12.40pm with the two-mile £17,500 Listed Coronation Street 50th Anniversary Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, and also includes the £25,000 Follow Paul Nicholls On Facebook And Twitter Handicap Chase (1.15pm), also over two miles.
Saturday’s card concludes with the £7,000 Timeform Betfair Racing Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.55pm), won last year by Peddlers Cross, who went on to Grade One glory over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Northwest Masters continues at Aintree on Sunday, 21 November, which is the only raceday of the year to feature two races over the famous Grand National fences – the £60,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Chase (12.35pm) and the £100,000 Listed totesport.com Becher Chase (1.45pm).