GRADE ONE-WINNING steeplechaser Waiting Patiently will miss the Ryanair Chase at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, trainer Ruth Jefferson has confirmed.
She wants to give her top class horse more time to recover from last month’s Grade One Ascot Chase when he was a distant second to the Harry Cobden-ridden and Paul Nicholls-trained runaway winner Cyrname.
Owned by Richard Collins, Waiting Patiently won his first six starts over fences, culminating in the 2018 Ascot Chase at the Berkshire track, before the winning run came to an end when the horse – ridden by Brian Hughes – was effectively brought down by Bristol De Mai in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“We’re not going to Cheltenham,” Malton-based Jefferson confirmed to The Yorkshire Post.
Though her decision will disappoint those who believe Waiting Patiently has the speed and scope to win the Ryanair, a championship race over two-and-a-half miles, she is also not convinced that the eight-year-old would be seen at his best on Cheltenham’s undulating track.
Jefferson said she was considering options at next month’s Aintree and Punchestown festivals – and possibly a trip to Paris for one of the elite chases at Auteuil in the French capital.
The second successive year that Waiting Patiently has bypassed the Ryanair Chase, Jefferson’s announcement came when Colin Tizzard confirmed that Fox Norton will miss the race after suffering a slight setback.
Meanwhile, Buveur D’Air and Apple’s Jade are among 14 confirmations for next Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle, the day one highlight of the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Henderson’s dual winner Buveur D’Air is bidding to become the sixth horse in history to win the two-mile hurdling crown three times – and the first since fellow JP McManus-owned star Istabraq (1998, 1999 and 2000).
However, he looks set to face his toughest test to date next week as he will need to concede 7lb to superstar mare Apple’s Jade.
Gordon Elliott’s charge claimed her 10th victory at Grade One level with a scintillating display in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month and disputes favouritism with Buveur D’Air as she bids to become the fifth mare to claim Champion Hurdle glory.
The last mare to achieve the feat was Annie Power and her trainer, Willie Mullins, has another leading contender from the distaff division in Laurina.
The Champion Hurdle is preceded by the Racing Post Arkle in which the Kayley Woollacott-trained Lalor heads 21 entries.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson’s mount returns to the track where he made a winning chase debut in November.
The Jonathan Burke-ridden Glen Forsa, from Mick Channon’s yard, could bid to confirm his superiority over last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle runner-up Kalashnikov – having defeated the Amy Murphy-trained six-year-old in the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase.
Staying steeplechaser The Last Samuri has been retired by owners Paul and Clare Rooney following a below-par run at Newbury last Saturday. The horse’s successes included the 2016 Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster under David Bass before being caught on the run-in of the 2016 Grand National by Rule The World.
York has been voted the best course in the country for the third year running by the Racegoers Club. It is the ninth time that the track has landed the title.