The Michael Banks-trained Clerk’s Choice has proved himself to be a useful performer over the last few season’s even if things didn’t quite go his way last term when temporarily transferred to the care of Banks’ neighbour Oliver Sherwood. Now back with his original handler, the seven-year-old is being prepared for the lucrative Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 9 and his trainer is keen to get a run into his star before then, writes Elliot Slater.

Frustrated by abandonments due to flooding and now with a cold spell likely to force the cancellation of more potential targets for Clerk’s Choice, the gelding may well have to make do with a warm-up contest on one of the all-weather tracks in a Jumper’s Bumper to ensure that he arrives at Newbury as fit as possible for what is always a hugely competitive event that attracts a large field of classy handicappers.

Banks sent the son of Bachelor Duke to Sherwood last season after his main work rider was sidelined for a long period. But with her back to full fitness he has taken over the training reins again and reports the winner of five of his 29 races to be in great nick, although in need of an outing having not been seen in action since finishing down the field in a Flat handicap at Chester in June of last year.

At his best Clerk’s Choice would appeal as a well handicapped horse being some 15lbs lower than his highest mark of 162, achieved back in the 2010/11 season following his hugely impressive 21-length win of a hot Cheltenham handicap hurdle. He went on to run a cracking race in finishing sixth to the mighty Hurricane Fly in the 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle and is currently on offer in the Betfair Hurdle betting at a general price of 33/1, tempting for those who like an each-way interest in the big races.

Don’t forget to check out the Betfair Cheltenham website with the big festival just a few weeks away.

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