MALCOLM Jefferson was far more than a gentleman trainer who became one of the most respected figures in racing.
He was a devoted family man – the 71-year-old, who died yesterday after a long illness, is survived by his wife Sue and the couple’s four children Clare, Rachel, Jo and Ruth.
He was a mentor to many of the North’s top riders from Paul Hanagan, the two-time champion Flat jockey, to the pre-eminent Northern jumps rider Brian Hughes.
And he was the trainer of a host of big race winners – his four Cheltenham Festival successes included the top class hurdler Dato Star, who became a standard-bearer for Yorkshire racing in the 1990s.
Yet, while it was fitting that his last winners Waiting Patiently and Black Ivory were shown live on ITV Racing a fortnight ago, the sadness is that he will not see these horses, and a clutch of exciting prospects, fulfil their potential as the training licence at Newstead Cottage Stables, Malton, transfers to his daughter and assistant Ruth.
Jefferson began his life in racing with the late Gordon W Richards in Cumbria – he was travelling head lad to the legendary trainer – before moving to North Yorkshire and taking out his licence in 1981.
His first Cheltenham Festival winner came through Tindari in the Pertemps Final in 1994 before he claimed the Champion Bumper the following year with the aforementioned Dato Star who became a top-class hurdler.
Jefferson achieved a notable double in 2012 when Cape Tribulation and Attaglance won at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals. Yet these great highs were followed by a cruel twist when According To Pete, bred by long-time owner Pete Nelson, lost his life in the National. Racing’s heart went out to a stable that had captured the sport’s imagination with their handing of this rags-to-riches horse who was still in contention when brought down.
“He was always good with young people, he kick-started a lot of careers when you look back, a lot of jockeys,” said Ruth Jefferson who is due to saddle two runners at Wetherby today.
“He gave everybody a chance, it was up to them to then take it. What he did was buy inexpensive horses who won races, not many left him and won for other people. He was very good at placing them.”
He gave everybody a chance, it was up to them to then take it. What he did was buy inexpensive horses who won races, not many left him and won for other people. He was very good at placing them.Ruth Harrison
Her comments were echoed by the aforementioned Hughes who said: “He’s suffered for the last year, but he’s still been out on the gallops and always kept his head up and got on with the job.
“He’s been a great trainer, a great man with young horses and great to ride for. I’ll never be able to repay him for everything he’s done for me and my career.”
Asked about highlights, he said: “We’ve had the likes of Waiting Patiently, Cloudy Dream, Cyrus Darius and Oscar Rock, but I suppose one of the days that stands out was Double W’s winning at Aintree last year.
“He’s a horse Malcolm bought as a three-year-old for very little money and he’d minded him as a young horse. Malcolm hadn’t been well, so for him to go and win a big race was great.”
Rarely seen on the racecourse without his trademark flat cap, the warmth of the tributes from rival Yorkshire trainers spoke volumes about the high esteem in which Jefferson was held. “He was a good friend to us all,” said Grand National-winning trainer Sue Smith.
And Ferdy Murphy, who trained at West Witton, added: “He was formidable opposition. He worked hard and built up a good business from small beginnings. When he had a good horse, he got the job done.”