EVEN though Wetherby’s feature Towton Novices Chase has an illustrious roll of honour, today’s winner will be upstaged if the preceding race is won by either Special Catch or Only Orvieto.
They will be Ruth Jefferson’s first runners since her 71-year-old father Malcolm, the much respected Malton trainer, passed away yesterday after a long illness that he fought bravely.
The Jefferson stable has always excelled at the West Yorkshire track – According To Pete and Cape Tribulation won the Rowland Meyrick Chase in 2011 and 2012 respectively while Calatagan was a dual winner of the Castleford Chase in 2006 and 2007.
After jockeys wore black armbands at Catterick yesterday, flags will be flown at half-mast and a tribute will be paid to Jefferson in the winner’s enclosure.
“He was a great supporter of Wetherby,” said course chairman Jonjo Sanderson. “When he was travelling head lad with Gordon W Richards, he used to bring some of the great horses here.”
His words were echoed by top trainer Jonjo O’Neill who enjoyed a long association with the Richards stable. He tweeted: “Very sad to hear about the passing of Malcolm Jefferson. Many great days were spent racing together at Gordon Richards. My thoughts are with Sue and his family.”
As for the Towton, local hopes rest with Sue Smith’s second-season chaser Vintage Clouds who was fourth in last month’s Welsh National after being badly hampered at a crucial stage of the contest.
The grey holds an entry in the Grand National and Danny Cook’s mount qualifies for today’s Grade Two race by virtue of the fact that his only win to date over the larger obstacles came as recently as last October at Aintree. “He’s very well,” said Smith whose yard is in a rich vein of form. “He’s a very consistent horse. He won his Bumper around Wetherby. He’s in good form and we’re hopeful.”
The race also features three-time Wetherby winner Ami Desbois for trainer Graeme McPherson.