‘He’s a contender not a pretender’

Luke Clarke-trained Testator Silens Country Champs bound following Highway victory 

Jean Van Overmeire drives the Luke Clarke-trained Testator Silens to victory in Saturday’s 1200m Class Three High Handicap at Royal Randwick. Photo: Bradley Photos.

“He’s tough,” is what Braidwood trainer Luke Clarke had to say following Testator Silens’ Highway Handicap win at Royal Randwick on Saturday. 

The four-year-old – ridden by Jean Van Overmeire –jumped from gate 13 and was forced to travel five-wide in the 1200m Class Three Handicap.

On the turn, Testator Silens was the widest of the leading group, but the Braidwood galloper dug deep, and down the long Randwick straight, he fought tooth and nail before edging past the Cody Morgan-trained Anethole to win by 0.07 of a length, while the Stirling Osland-trained Golden Point finished third, only 0.33 of a length off the pace.

Clarke always believed his gelding would run a big race, but to win when coming five wide the trip in one of the hottest Highways in recent times; even Clarke was taken back by the victory.

“You couldn’t be too confident going into it with the barrier he came out of, but I knew he would run well, and I thought if he finished in the top five and was hitting the line; that’s all I was looking for,” Clarke explained. 

“He is just tough, and he wanted to win, and he showed that today.”

The Star Witness gelding is no stranger to winning either, having registered four victories from five starts, including a very good Highway win at Rosehill Gardens back in November. 

Now a tilt at the Newhaven Park South East Country Championships qualifier at Nowra on Sunday, February 20 is on the cards.

“That was the plan; it was an ambitious plan but it’s one we’ve stuck by,” Clarke said. 

“Straight after we got him back after his last win; I put him in the paddock and gave him two weeks off.”

Clarke even hinted that Testator Silens had improved following his Rosehill victory and a 10-week break between runs, having now won back-to-back Highways ahead of the Country Championships series. 

“Me personally, I reckon he has improved,” Clarke said.

“His work on Tuesday morning was the strongest work he had done. The way he went around; it was really good,” Clarke said.

With the $150,000 South East qualifier just eight days away, Clarke explained it would be a quiet week for Testator Silens.  

“It won’t worry him. He is good as gold and he will just cruise around, trot and canter and be ready for Sunday,” Clarke said. 

“Look at the today, he did it tough, but he won and that’s just the kind of horse he is and don’t worry; he will be up for it next week.”

With nominations closing for the South East Country Championships qualifier meeting on Tuesday at 11am, Clarke said he wasn’t worried where Testator Silens drew either, suggesting he was the horse to beat in the $500,000 series. 

“Whatever he draws, he will put in 100%. Today he came out of barrier 13 and it didn’t bother him,” Clarke said. 

“He is a contender and not pretender. He has won four of five, he’s done nothing wrong, he’s on the improve and he can handle any surface.

“I couldn’t be happier with him, and I would rather have him than any other horse right now.”

It is a big week for Racing NSW participants, with the Country Championships officially jumping off at Coffs Harbour on Saturday (February 19), with the running of the Northern Rivers Racing Association qualifier, before the Nowra meeting and the South East qualifier on Sunday (February 20).