It’s been said before and it’s being said again now. Waiting Patiently could not be more appropriately named.
He was trained by Malcolm Jefferson, the quiet, genial Cumbrian who learned old school techniques and good habits from Gordon Richards before setting up on his own across the Pennines in Yorkshire, from where he sent out hundreds of winners over almost four decades, mainly over jumps.
And of all his qualities, he was best known for his patience. He went softly-softly, never asking horses to bite off more than they could chew. But when the time was right, he was as bold as a lion with many a successful raid on the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
Jefferson's spirit lives on
Malcolm died last February, but his spirit and skill live on in his daughter Ruth, who seamlessly took over the reins at Newstead Cottage Stables and who this afternoon gives Waiting Patiently the chance to become the first northern winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton since Richards’ One Man (1995 and 1996).
Freeman's Kempton selections
12.50 Thomas Darby (Next Best)
1.20 Dell Oro
1.55 Bags Groove (Best Bet)
2.30 Buveur D’Air
3.05 Waiting Patiently
3.40 Erick Le Rouge
Waiting Patiently announced himself on the big stage when beating Cue Card in the Grade One Ascot Chase just a day after Malcolm’s funeral, maintaining his unbeaten record over fences.
He hasn’t run since, due to one reason or other, but Ruth was never in a hurry anyway, content to wait until confident he was ready for this ultimate test, incidentally 19 years to the day after leading up her dad’s Dato Star to win Kempton’s chief supporting race, the Christmas Hurdle.
Moment of truth
But you can’t wait forever and the moment of truth has arrived as the seven-year-old now locks horns with Might Bite, Native River and the rest of the elite in a vintage renewal of this famous contest.
In her short time at the helm, Ruth has proved herself as adept as her father at getting a horse ready first time, while Waiting Patiently has twice won following 10-month breaks. And though this is his first try over three miles, she has a gut feeling he won’t fail for lack of stamina.
And if there are one or two question marks hanging over Waiting Patiently, they are hovering above his opponents, too. No horse here has a perfect CV.
The fact that Might Bite and Thistlecrack have been here and won this before does stand them in very good stead. The 11 King Georges between 2004 and 2014 were won by just four different horses (Kicking King, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti twice and Kauto Star five times). Winners of this race tend to come back and win it again.
But Might Bite was a shadow of his best self when trounced by Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase last month. The much-criticised stiff Haydock fences were blamed, but it was still a worryingly lack-lustre display.
Thistlecrack raced with more vim, but this former champion staying hurdler is not a fluent jumper of fences and that may find him out in the heat of battle.
As for Bristol De Mai, he proved at Haydock that he is not just a heavy-ground bully, but he has still to demonstrate that same excellence away from the Lancashire venue.
Native River was an encouraging runner-up at Haydock on his first outing since outstaying Might Bite in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Kempton’s course doesn’t play to his strengths – he jumped left and was a beaten favourite as a novice on this day three years ago and has never run at a right-handed track since.
Paul Nicholls has two shots of improving upon his record nine King George victories and Politologue would appear to have better prospects than Clan Des Obeaux, although the grey is another with stamina to prove.
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