Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase will undoubtedly go down as one of the highlights of the 2017/2018 national hunt season, both in terms of performance and emotion, as the Ruth Jefferson-trained Waiting Patiently nabbed his first Grade 1 victory from one of the most-loved horses in training – the twelve-year-old Cue Card.
The horse now recognised as the outstanding chaser in the north was maintaining his unbeaten record over fences in by far his stiffest task to date, just a day after the funeral of Malcolm Jefferson had taken place in Malton. Daughter Ruth, clearly both delighted and emotional after the 2-1 favourite’s comprehensive defeat of the revitalised Cue Card, said: “ Dad had a lot of belief in this horse and rated him very highly. No-one would have been shouting louder as he came over the line had he been here.”
With the likes of Frodon, Top Notch and Coney Island among the beaten horses the form of the 2m 5f contest is about as solid as it could possibly get and earned the mount of Brian Hughes ( who recorded a treble on the day ) a top quote of 4-1 with Coral and Boylesports for the Ryanair Chase at the festival. But the seven-year-old’s trainer issued words of caution regarding the Flemensfirth gelding’s possible target, explaining: “ I would say to anybody who is thinking of backing him for the Ryanair, just hold your bets at the moment. Unless it’s soft we will not go.”
Next year’s King George is the long-range mission for Waiting Patiently who can be backed at 7-1 with Betfair Sportsbook for Kempton’s Boxing Day showpiece, although Hughes is yet to be convinced the three mile trip will be within the remit of the horse. Whether it is Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown or Kempton there is little doubt that the north now have something capable of mixing it with whatever the top southern or Irish stables have at their disposal.
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