Clarke Opts For Familiarity In Testator’s Country Championships Bid

If Testator Silens doesn’t win the $500,000 Newhaven Park Country Championships Final at Randwick on Saturday, it certainly won’t be because of lack of detail in the preparation.

Trainer Luke Clarke (Pic: Steve Hart)

And if he does win, it will register as a big thumbs up for good, old-fashioned, country loyalty as displayed by the horse’s trainer Luke Clarke.

Testator Silens is a quality horse at his best and was always going to be one of the favourites for the final after qualifying with a second to Kimberley Secrets in the SERA Country Championships at Moruya on March 5.

TAB Fixed Odds has him at $6.50 for the 1400-metre event, behind only Talbragar ($4.50) and Akasawa ($5) and just ahead of Kimberley Secrets ($7.50) in a very open betting market.

And as one of the favoured horses in a feature race it’s only natural that the ride became a sought-after one.

But despite having the option of engaging a Sydney-based jockey, Clarke chose to stick with Heywood after the country-based jockey rode him for the first time in the Moruya qualifier.

“I had a couple of calls from managers of Sydney jockeys, but I wanted to give Nick a crack,” Clarke said.

“He had the ride in the qualifier and he’s done all of the hard yards. He’s ridden him in a barrier trial at Hawkesbury since and a gallop at Goulburn as well.

“The managers chase the rides for their clients and that’s all fine. Racing’s a business. But you’ve got to be a bit loyal to the country jockeys. I’ve always been a bit like that with them.

“The qualifier at Moruya was the first race ride Nick’s had for me. I’ve tried to put him on a few other times, but he’s a good country jockey so he gets booked out pretty quickly. I hope to use him more often from now on.”

Heywood rode Another One for Wagga trainer Gary Colvin when it won last year’s Country Championships Final. Testator Silens finished seventh in that race.

Clarke reported that Heywood was doing every bit of research possible in a bid to get Testator Silens home in first place in this year’s edition.

“Jean Van Overmeire rode Testator Silens in last year’s qualifier and final and he’s riding in Dubai now,” Clarke said.

“Nick’s been talking to him on the phone about the horse and he’s also had a word to Tyler Schiller, who rode him in the Southern Cross Stakes at Randwick in February. He prepares really well.”

Clarke believes Testator Silens, now a five-year-old but still lightly-raced having only had 12 starts, is a better chance in this year’s final than he was 12 months ago.

“He’s well, he’s nice and happy and everything’s been ticking along good,” he said.

“He’s drawn wide in 12, but there’s a bit of speed out wide and some inside as well, so hopefully they roll along well and we can get two or three pairs back and one off the fence. That’s in an ideal world.

“Any wider and you obviously want cover. He needs plenty of galloping room anyway, so I’d rather be out a fraction deeper than on the fence.

“I think he’s definitely looking more for 1400 this year. He’s probably a bit more dour than last year.

“His qualifier was a lot closer to the final this year than last year, which will be of benefit to him, and he’s a lot more calm now as an older horse. So he’s ready for this type of race.”

– Racing NSW

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