Ruth Jefferson will put her Christmas Day celebrations on hold to drive leading 32Red King George VI Chase contender Waiting Patiently on a five-hour journey from Malton to Kempton in the hope of pulling off a great training feat with a horse making his first start for ten months.
The turkey and trimmings will have to wait as the multi-tasking trainer, who took over the running of Newstead Stables following the death of her father Malcolm in February, has her eyes on the most treasured Christmas present of all.
“My Christmas Day is going to pan out as follows – get up, muck out, feed, pack up the wagon and go to Kempton,” said Jefferson, who has happy memories of Boxing Day having led up Dato Star for her father when he won the 1999 Christmas Hurdle.
“I still do a bit of everything and I’m going to take him down. He’s been to Kempton, he’s stayed overnight at Kempton and he has won at Kempton, so it holds no fears.”
Waiting Patiently, unbeaten in six starts over fences, has not run since beating Cue Card in an epic duel for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in February, but despite his lengthy absence he is second favourite for the King George at a best-priced 6-1 – behind only last year’s winner Might Bite.
Jefferson believes the Richard Collins-owned seven-year-old will be suited by stepping up to three miles for the first time and it is all systems go for Kempton, providing the ground conditions are not extreme.
“We’ve thought the race would suit for a while and we’d like to have a go and learn more about him,” said Jefferson on Monday.
“The King George is Plan A and we’ll stick to Plan A as long as we can. Ideally we’re looking for ground on the slow side of good – he just doesn’t like it too quick – and as long as it’s safe we’ll let him take his chance.
“I wouldn’t want to run on bottomless ground over three miles either as I think he’d have a hard race and it would take longer to recover.”
Waiting Patiently is appropriately named as he has raced only nine times since making his debut in 2015. A tendon injury ruled him out of Aintree in the spring but he has been given plenty of time to come right.
“I don’t know whether you’d call him fragile but he takes a lot out of himself in a race and maybe does not take a lot of racing,” said Jefferson.
“We waited with him over the summer and he’s healed really well. There’s been no reason not to start pushing buttons and everything so far has been good – he hasn’t give me a moment’s worry.”
Waiting Patiently, who jumped four fences under big-race jockey Brian Hughes after racing at Hexham last week, continued his King George preparations by working over six furlongs on the all-weather gallop in Malton on Monday morning.
Hughes is a perfect six from six on Waiting Patiently and his knowledge of the horse could be a crucial factor in what is shaping up to be an open race.
“Brian gets on with him well and he doesn’t like to be hit behind the saddle – if you watch him at Ascot he starts to hang a little bit,” added Jefferson. “It’s nice that the race is competitive. They’re a good bunch of horses and we hope he’ll be in the shake up.”
Picking up the pace after early blow
She has only held a licence for ten months but Ruth Jefferson is already well accustomed to the highs and lows of training.
Assistant trainer at her family’s Newstead Stables in Malton for 15 years, Jefferson took over the reins following the death of her much-respected father Malcolm in February.
She quickly made her mark, claiming an emotional Grade 1 victory with Waiting Patiently in the Ascot Chase – just a day after her father’s funeral.
However, the seamless transition was interrupted during the summer after three of the stable’s leading lights were moved on to other yards with Cloudy Dream and Mount Mews sent to Donald McCain and Cyrus Darius joining Colin Tizzard.
Cloudy Dream: moved from the Jefferson yard to Donald McCain this season
John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Jefferson has responded to those blows with 13 winners from 56 runners this season, at a highly respectable strike-rate of 23 per cent.
“We knew some of them would leave and there is nothing you can do about it,” said Jefferson, who has 34 horses in training. “I am not going to spend my time worrying about it and I am just grateful for all the support I have got.”
On the flip side, Waiting Patiently’s owner Richard Collins has increased his horses at the yard to four, while The Mount Fawcus Partnership have spent big sums on Buster Valentine and Mega Yeats.
“I’m very lucky Richard has entrusted me with Waiting Patiently,” she added. “I really hope we can win the King George as I might not get another one like him.”
An interesting aspect of Jefferson’s short tenure – and one that bodes well for Waiting Patiently’s Kempton bid – has been her ability to win with horses returning from a break.
“We have had eight first-time-out winners this season and it’s nice to know we can get one ready,” she said. “The season has gone okay so far and we have some nice horses to run in the better races after Christmas.”
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