Ruth Jefferson hoping patient wait can create rare Kempton feat

RUTH JEFFERSON says she 'couldn't be happier' with Waiting Patiently as she attempts to win the King George VI Chase '“ racing's Christmas highlight '“ and rewrite the rules of training.

Trainer Ruth Jefferson.

Unbeaten from six starts over fences, the lightly-raced horse – owned by Richard Collins – has not competed since winning the Grade One Ascot Chase in mid-February after a developing a touch of heat in a leg, the equine equivalent of tendonitis.

Yet, while Waiting Patiently’s nine high class rivals have all had the benefit of at least one preparatory run ahead of a potentially classic King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, Jefferson is having to rely upon instinct with her seven-year-old who is only headed in the betting by defending champion Might Bite.

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All this at the end of a challenging year that saw Jefferson taking over the licence at her family’s Malton stables after her father Malcolm, one of the country’s respected trainers, succumbed to cancer on February 2.

Waiting Patiently and Brian Hughes (right) got the better of the Paddy Brennan-ridden Cue Card in the Ascot Chase.

A trainer who always exhibited great patience when it came to handling his racehorses, his daughter is now demonstrating similar qualities as she becomes established in her own right and the winners begin to accumulate.

She has simply had to play for time with Waiting Patiently who will be stepping up to three miles for the first time.

And while no horse in recent times has won the King George on their seasonal reappearance, this is not deterring Jefferson who will drive Waiting Patiently to Kempton on Christmas afternoon in readiness for the big race which also features Chelenham Gold Cup hero Native River and Betfair Chase winer Bristol De Mai.

“I couldn’t be happier,” she told The Yorkshire Post.

“He came back from his racecourse gallop at Hexham in really good order.

“He also did a strong piece of work on Thursday on the gallops alongside a couple of really good work horses.

“It was strong piece of work and he wouldn’t have blown out a candle afterwards. Put it like this, I was doing 40mph in the car alongside the gallop and struggling to keep up.”

Asked how difficult it is to prepare a clearly fragile horse for such a big race after a long lay-off, Jefferson is sanguine. “No idea. Never done it before,” she says. “Whatever happens, it is going to be a good race and I’m pleased to have a horse that is good enough to take part.”

Waiting Patiently was originally trained by Keith Reveley before he started scaling down his Saltburn operation and the horse was moved to the Jefferson stable in November 2016.

Yet, while the horse’s coming of age win was the Ascot Chase when the gelding, and jockey Brian Hughes, got the better of the legendary Cue Card in one of the defining races of the year, it came a day after Jefferson had attended her father’s funeral.

Her first Grade One win, it was also the most significant triumph to date in the career of Hughes who keeps the ride on Waiting Patiently despite switching allegiance to Donald McCain soon afterwards.

Asked what winning the King George would mean, Jefferson said: “I would rather win it than not win it. I don’t think I can articulate what winning would mean.

“It would be great for the lads at the yard who have kept going – and also Brian. The horse gave him a first Grade One. It would be nice to provide him with another. 2018, it’s been tougher personally than professionally. Professionally, you just get on with it. Personally, it’s a bit more challenging.”

Jefferson does, however, hold fond memories of the King George meeting after being present at Kempton when her father’s Dato Star won the Grade One Christmas Hurdle in 1999.

“My uncle had a share in the horse so it was a real family affair,” she recalled. “I remember it was big and all the photographers – I think Dato Star knocked some of the sponsors’ models out of the way. Hopefully Waiting Patiently can go there and also put up a massive run.”