Chase is on for Waiting Patiently

HOPES are growing that Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson's stable star Waiting Patiently could win his fitness race '“ and line up in Kempton's King George Chase on Boxing Day.

Waiting Patiently and Brian Hughes (right) lead Cue Card and Paddy Brennan away from the last fence before going on to win the Ascot Chase.

The North Yorkshire horse, who has not raced since beating the now retired Cue Card in a Grade One chase at Ascot in February, pleased connections with a racecourse gallop at Hexham.

With a stablemate giving him a lead, Waiting Patiently went less than a circuit and jumped four fences accurately under regular rider Brian Highes who had earlier recorded a treble at the Northumberland track.

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“It wasn’t really a gallop, to be honest. It was just a case of letting him have a day away having not run in a while,” said Hughes afterwards.

Rock The World ridden by jockey Robbie Power (front right) on the way to winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase during Gold Cup Day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire)

“He cantered behind his lead horse and jumped the fences well and Ruth was happy with him.

“From my point of view he felt great and was nice and settled,” he added.

Waiting Patiently is a best-priced 6-1 second-favourite for the King George, with last year’s winner Might Bite still favourite despite finishing last of five in Haydock’s Betfair Chase last month.

Hughes added: “It’s obviously going to be a tough ask – running in a King George on his first run of the season – but it is what it is.

“He feels as well as ever and we’re looking forward to it,” he added.

Meanwhile, the British Horseracing Authority’s review of equine fatalities at this year’s Cheltenham Festival has – as expected – recommended a reduction in field sizes for all two-mile chases at thetrack.

The ruling body conducted what it described as a “rigorous process of data evaluation, consultation and review of video evidence” following the death of six horses during the showpiece meeting in March – including three in the concluding Grand Annual Chase.

The BHA noted there had been suggestions in the immediate aftermath that the fatality rate in the Grand Annual had been “adversely affected by the race being positioned at the end of Friday’s card”.

However, after comparing the race to the County Hurdle – previously the concluding race of the Festival – it said the position of the race had “little impact on the faller rate”.

But the review did recommend that field size for the Grand Annual and all two-mile chases run at the track should be reduced from 24 to 20.

Brant Dunshea, chief regulatory officer for the BHA, said: “The publishing of this report does not by any means represent the end of our commitment to enhancing welfare standards, at Cheltenham racecourse and across all British racecourses.”

The review was led by a dedicated group and with external inputs including the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, with the analysis covering all races run at the Festival from 2007 to 2018 – including 5,451 runners and 208 fallers.

Along with the field-size reduction, key recommendations include a change to the race conditions of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, which would mean all rider weight-claiming allowances would be removed in a bid to encourage connections to use the most experienced jockeys.

The review also recommends pre-race veterinary examinations be increased to include all runners in all races at the Festival.