THE high regard in which Waiting Patiently is held by trainer Malcolm Jefferson and his staff is illustrated by the steeplechaser’s big race entries.
As well as Ascot’s Grade One Clarence House Chase later this month, Cheltenham Festival targets include the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase.
And although the lightly-raced horse, owned by Richard Collins, is unbeaten from four starts over fences, the seven-year-old is quietly expected to justify the faith in today’s reappearance at Kempton.
After all, Waiting Patiently – who joined the Jefferson stable when former trainer Keith Reveley retired – rounded off his novice campaign by beating the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue, a subsequent Group One winner and a favourite for the Champion Chase, at Haydock last January.
On his only run this season, the Malton horse was a class apart when winning Carlisle’s prestigious Colin Parker Chase with Sue Smith’s I Just Know, winner of Thursday’s North Yorkshire National at Catterick, a remote fourth.
However, a head cold – “man flu” joked Jefferson’s daughter and assistant Ruth – meant the horse, ironically-named in the circumstances, missed a number of intended targets last month.
There was no point rushing him back and giving him a hard race on heavy ground. We thought we would give him a little longer.Ruth Jefferson
“This will be a tougher race than Carlisle realistically,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “He’s got to go out there and prove that he can make the step up.
“He’s in really good form at home and it’s a nice for him – he should have a nice chance. There was no point rushing him back and giving him a hard race on heavy ground. We thought we would give him a little longer.
“He’s honest, genuine and a nice jumper. He’s economical with his jumping, but he wouldn’t want the ground any quicker than it will be at Kempton.”
Asked about the eyecatching entries that the horse holds, she said: “He’s got to step up and prove he can compete in that class.”
That said, today’s race is also a chance for Jefferson’s stable jockey Brian Hughes to showcase his talents at a major meeting.
Second in last season’s title race to champion jockey Richard Johnson, and the North’s most prolific rider for a generation, it remains a mystery that he’s not received wider recognition and is still looking out for a sponsor for his equipment.
The big danger to Waiting Patiently and Hughes could come from the Tom George-trained God’s Own who has Grade One-winning form.
However, God’s Own has not raced since a disappointing run at Aintree in late October and this contest is a prep for the major festivals later in the season.
“He’s in good form and this is his run to set him up for the spring,” said George. “We had planned to go for the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon (in December) but that was abandoned and when they rescheduled it for Taunton the ground was too soft, so we said we’d sit tight.
“It’s all about the spring with him and this isn’t his Gold Cup, so to speak, but the conditions of the race suit him and we thought we’d better let him take his chance. When he ran in the Champion Chase last year it was his first run in a while and he was just too fresh, which is why we wanted to get a run in this time.”
Later, the aforementioned Hughes partners the Dr Richard Newland-trained Le Patriote in a fiercely competitive renewal of the Lanzarote Hurdle.
The horse is making his British debut after contesting some valuable races in France.
“He’s been with us a few weeks and seems to have acclimatised well since arriving from France. We’re hoping for a very good run,” said Newland, who won the 2014 Grand National with Pineau De Re.
“He’ll like the ground and has some pretty good form in France, but whether it’s good enough to beat this lot, I don’t know.”