THERE are three reasons why Waiting Patiently’s brilliant win at Kempton was celebrated so warmly after Malcolm Jefferson’s exciting chaser extended his unbeaten run over fences to five.
First, this top-class horse confirmed his prowess and potential with an emphatic victory – he deserves his place in forthcoming Grade One races provided the ground is sufficiently soft.
Second, there is tremendous goodwill towards Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson, one of the great gentlemen of National Hunt racing, as he continues to battle ill-health.
Third, the result reaffirmed the revival of Northern jump racing following the high-profile successes of Middleham trainer Jedd O’Keeffe’s Sam Spinner and notable wins enjoyed by Simply Ned and Guitar Pete from the Cumbrian yard of Nicky Richards.
As Waiting Patiently’s jockey Brian Hughes told The Yorkshire Post, trainers in the North are certainly good enough if they have the right horses and recent results do demonstrate this.
Even more encouragingly, the North Yorkshire rider believes there is more to come from a horse who could, in his opinion, excel at any distance between two and three miles.
Second in last year’s title race, and the undisputed top rider in the North, the former champion apprentice was content to bide his time in the Listed 32Red Casino Chase against proven performers like Grade One winner God’s Own and former Hennessy hero Smad Place.
Jumping economically, Hughes made his move on the Richard Collins-owned horse turning for home, taking closer proximity at the third last after a clear run on the inner and headed Harry Cobden’s mount Art Mauresque at the penultimate fence.
From there, Waiting Patiently streaked clear to win by eight effortless lengths and pass the sternest test of his fledgling career with flying colours – the warmth of the cheers more than 200 miles away at Wetherby, as racegoers huddled in a betting office, showed what this result meant to the sport.
Next month’s Grade One Ascot Chase is a possibility – and the victor already holds eyecatching entries in both the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, and mid-distance Ryanair Chase, at the Cheltenham Festival.
“I’m very pleased. He had to step up – and he did,” said Hughes. “He was taking on good experienced chasers. It was his biggest test to date and he passed it.”
The rider was also not surprised by Waiting Patiently stretching clear of his rivals. “Without being cocky, I was pretty sure he had plenty left,” he said.
“He’s a very accurate jumper. He has enough pace to win over two miles. The way he stayed on at Kempton, he could possibly stay three miles.
“He’s only had five races over fences and is still improving. He likes soft ground. He’s not a bad mover, but the owner is quite keen to run on soft.”
Asked about future plans, Hughes says he will leave it to others. “I wouldn’t have a clue,” he joked. “I don’t think that far ahead. I leave it to the trainer and owner. I just do the riding.”
That said, there’s real hope that Waiting Patiently, originally trained by the now retired Keith Reveley, could provide Hughes with the landmark Grade One success that his flourishing career deserves and add to his two Cheltenham Festival wins to date.
However the aforementioned Jefferson’s daughter and assistant Ruth stressed that conditions must not be too quick for a horse who missed a number of high-profile target last month because of a cold.
“There’s not a lot of races about for him and we will have to look at the next step up and if the ground is good to soft or soft we will give the Ascot Chase a go,” she said.
“Smad Place and God’s Own are getting on a little bit, but they do set a nice standard. He has done really well on soft ground and he has looked really well on soft/heavy ground. He has had to run on something a bit quicker today and prove he was as good.
“I like the way he quickened between the second-last and the last and galloped to the line. I was really pleased with that and his jumping.
“He is quite a heavy horse. He is not very big, but stocky and we would want to make sure it is genuine good to soft or worse before we risk him. The weather gods are out of my control so we will keep him in at Cheltenham.”
There was further success for the Jefferson stable shortly after Waiting Patiently’s success when Black Ivory prevailed in Warwick’s Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle under Jamie Hamilton.
The conditional rider, described by eight-times champion jockey Peter Scudamore as one of the North’s best prospects, hit the front after the last and could now try and qualify for the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
This is the race that Jefferson’s Cape Tribulation won in 2012 before prevailing at Aintree, a feat that was also repeated in the same year by stablemate Attaglance.
“Black Ivory is a horse we’ve always thought a lot of,” added Hughes.
“It was a very good day for the yard – and the North.”