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Winning start for Tritonic delights King

Alan King feels there is plenty more to come from JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Tritonic following his winning debut over hurdle, with Kempton next on the agenda.

A top-class Flat handicapper in the summer, the Sea The Moon gelding finished second at Royal Ascot in the inaugural Golden Gates Handicap and was also runn-up in the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton.

Sent off favourite at Ascot on Saturday, he was made to pull out all the stops by Gary Moore’s Casa Loupi with the pair 18 lengths clear.

Tritonic will now either run in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle against his own age group on February 27, or take on his elders in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle on the same card at the Sunbury track.

“I was obviously very pleased with him, he was only just ready to start back on Saturday as he was gelded and had a proper break at the end of the Flat season,” said King, whose runner is a best-priced 14-1 for Cheltenham.

“I just felt if he was going to get to the Triumph then he needed two runs beforehand, so this is a good starting point and he’s come out of it fine.

“I would think we’ll go to Kempton next for either the Adonis or the Dovecote. We’ll put him in both and have a look.”

The Barbury Castle trainer added: “The front two finished a long way clear of another decent horse. I must admit jumping the last I did think we were booked for second – I was still thinking it was a satisfactory debut, but then he dug in and got there in the end.

“I’d like to think there’s a lot of improvement to come from him. There’ll have to be, but I do think there is.

“He’s been to the big handicaps on the Flat so that will stand him in good stead and he’ll be a lot sharper for the run.”

Ascot Chase option for Dashel Drasher

Jeremy Scott is thinking of giving Dashel Drasher an entry in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase following his game success over the course and distance on Saturday.

The eight-year-old has earned his chance in open company after making virtually all the running to see off Bennys King by a length and a quarter in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

It was his second successive victory over two miles and five furlongs at the Berkshire track and the way Dashel Drasher stuck to his task surprised even his trainer.

“I was really impressed with him. It’s interesting where we go now. He certainly looked more resilient than I possibly gave him credit for,” said Scott.

“He might go back there for the Ascot Chase in a month’s time. That’s a possibility.

“It’s over the same trip. It depends what is kicking around at the time. If he’s all right, he’ll probably have an entry. We’ll see what the opposition is and take it from there.

“He’s got the entry in the Ryanair, which is also a possibility.

“It would be nice to see him step up into graded company.”

Scott would love to see Dashel Drasher move up in class as the Somerset trainer still has his dam, So Long.

“It would also be nice to get some black type for the mare because we’ve still got her,” he said.

“We’ve never quite managed to get any black type, so it would be nice to achieve that.

“The options are open. We’ll see how he comes out of the race – that’s the main thing.”

Dashel Drasher steps up to the mark at Ascot

Dashel Drasher produced a tenacious performance to make every yard of the running and record a second Ascot triumph this season with victory in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

The Jeremy Scott-trained gelding jumped left at several of the fences, only to pull out extra under Matt Griffiths and hold Bennys King by a length and a quarter.

The 6-1 winner set what most observers thought might ultimately prove too frenetic a pace – but he came up for his pilot every time and those jumps enabled him to maintain a largely uncontested lead.

Griffiths said: “It’s massive for Jeremy to have such a nice horse on his hands. Owing to his lack of respect for the fences he wasn’t very good over them to start with, but he’s come good in a big way.

“I was more worried about what would happen over the first four fences, but he was going a gear quicker.

“He’s in the Sky Bet (Chase, at Doncaster), but whether he’ll go to Cheltenham, I don’t know, as he’s had a leg injury in the past. It’s funny he jumps left but has done more of his winning on right-handed courses, and I’m sure he’ll stay further.”

First Flow magnificent in Clarence House victory

First Flow put up a remarkable performance to outrun a clutch of established Grade One stars for victory in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Kim Bailey’s nine-year-old mud-lover was stepping up to the top level over fences for the first time in his career, but extended his winning sequence to six – taking on reigning Champion Chase hero Politologue from a long way out and staying on to win by seven lengths at 14-1.

First Flow, ridden in trademark style by the dynamic David Bass, was also providing the popular Bailey with his first Grade One success since Master Oats won the 1995 Cheltenham Gold Cup for him.

Paul Nicholls’ 11-8 favourite Politologue led early, and First Flow was always his nearest pursuer – as the pair built up a sizeable lead over the rest of the eight-strong field in the back straight.

Relishing the soft conditions, First Flow took over on the turn towards home and stayed on with great determination to repel all challengers, with Politologue second and Waiting Patiently just holding on for third ahead of the closing Fanion D’Estruval.

Bailey was quick to praise Bass, saying: “You have to hand it to that guy on top, who knows him so well. We realised we couldn’t take on Politologue for the lead from the start, but David took the bull by the horns.

“I was absolutely staggered, to be honest, because we both felt the ground wasn’t going to be soft enough and that if he had finished third he would have done very well. I admit I didn’t expect him to improve like that.

“He had a hard race at Wetherby (Castleford Chase on December 27), but we gave him an easy week, and that’s what’s happened. I’m so pleased for the owner Tony Solomons, who is my longest-standing patron. He’s 92 and has been with me for 40 years, showing that loyalty is a great thing in life.”

First Flow powered home
First Flow powered home (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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The Champion Chase obviously enters the equation for First Flow, and Bailey said: “Regarding Cheltenham, he has only been there once before when he ran in the Supreme (of 2018), but I wouldn’t mind going back there.

“If it’s soft or good to soft at Cheltenham you would have to think about the Queen Mother very seriously.

“Getting back to David, I had an irate punter ring up and criticise him to me, and I am so pleased that he has had to eat his words, because David got some of the best jumps out of the horse I have ever seen from him. He (Bass) never lets us down – he’s got better and better, and adores the horses.”

He added: “I never thought (First Flow) would get to Grade One level, but I feel we should give it (Cheltenham) a go. We have eight to 10 pounds to find, but he is obviously improving. It’s quite an emotional moment. This horse can’t school over fences at home and jumps over tractor tyres.”

Bass said: “I have always seen him as a proper two-miler, and he has a touch of class and can handle most types of ground.

“I didn’t really want to be too close to Harry (Cobden, Politologue), but he winged the fences down the hill – and then, between the third-last and second-last, I let him fill himself up so that he had something left for the finish.”

David Bass and First Flow were dominant at Ascot
David Bass and First Flow were dominant at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Bass admits First Flow’s improvement has surprised him – but he is emboldened after this victory to head for the Champion Chase.

“Why not? Let’s have a go,” he said.

“Let’s take on the big guns again, and hope for a bit more improvement.

“I’m still a little bit surprised he put up that performance. I knew that he’d improved, and was on a real winning streak.

“He’s really stepped up again, and I can’t believe he won as he did.

“He jumped so well – he was brilliant down the hill, and just made up so much ground jumping.

“We’ve had two or three quiet weeks, and we were starting to get a little bit concerned. But there’s nothing like a Grade One winner to let everyone know our horses are still in good form.”

First Flow’s jumping was pinpoint precision throughout – in direct contrast to most of his practice with Bass back at Bailey’s Cotswolds yard.

“I promise you – he’s frightened the life out of me at home,” added the winning jockey.

“I think I got a fall off him last year, schooling – he’s very average jumping at home, always has been.

“He wasn’t a natural. But on the racecourse, he’s been brilliant – and today was as well as he’s ever jumped.

“Knowing the horse as I do, I’m conscious in my head to either really go forward and attack a fence or take him back and get him underneath me. I said to myself, if I was meeting those fences right down the hill, then really attack them.

“That’s what I did. I was seeing good strides, and he was really winging them – and I didn’t want to disappoint the horse. He was enjoying it, and so was I. We were here to give it a go, and I wanted to be positive.”

First Flow also demonstrated that he does not necessarily need bog-like conditions to show his best form.

Bass added: “I think Kim’s given me a bit of stick, because I’ve always said he loves heavy ground – but he’s a classy horse, and he obviously handles soft, good to soft ground, which I thought it was today.

“I’m really pleased for the horse. He’s a real character, and a yard favourite.”

Roksana makes light work of Ascot rivals

Roksana returned to the scene of her fine effort in the Long Walk Hurdle to readily outclass her three foes in the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot.

Ridden with cool confidence from off the pace set by Magic Of Light and Coded Message, the 8-15 favourite turned into the home straight with jockey Harry Skelton holding a double handful.

Waiting until approaching the final flight, Skelton let out an inch of rein and Roksana sprinted clear of Magic Of Light, with Eglantine Du Seuil back in third just ahead of Coded Message.

Trainer Dan Skelton will look at two options at the Cheltenham Festival, including the World Hurdle for his impressive winner, who was third to Paisley Park and Thyme Hill in the Long Walk. But for now the mare will enjoy a well-earned easy few days.

Skelton’s assistant Tom Messenger said: “It was always the plan to give her three races – at Wetherby, the Long Walk and this race – before letting her down ahead of a possible trip to Cheltenham. It’s now up in the air whether she runs in the mares’ race there, the Stayers’ Hurdle or waits for Aintree.

“You would like to think she wouldn’t be far away if we headed for the Stayers’, and it looks up for grabs in an open year. You have to be in it to win it, and she’s a tough individual that can be kept in hard training.”

Tritonic advertises Triumph claims

Tritonic emerged as a leading light for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a debut success over jumps that will have taught him a great deal and elevate dreams for his owners of landing the juvenile championship at Cheltenham in March.

Good enough on the Flat to finish second to Highland Chief at the Royal meeting in June, Tritonic started a warm order at 5-4 for the bet365 Juvenile Hurdle – but looked to have plenty to do as Casa Loupi set sail for home on the homeward turn.

Happily for his supporters, the favourite gradually ate into his rival’s four-length lead and reeled him in in the final 100 yards to score by a length under Adrian Heskin.

The jockey, who had schooled his mount twice at Alan King’s Banbury Castle base, said: “Alan likes them dropped in, so I rode him to come from off the pace. He was a bit keen early and I had to sit and suffer a little going up the hill where, I let him fill up and find his feet. I thought turning in I would pick them up.”

Betfair cut Tritonic to 16-1 from 20-1 for the Triumph, with Coral unchanged at 20-1.

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Heskin added that he could envisage Tritonic developing into a contender for the race, saying: “He has stamina and gears and his jumping is good, while Mr (Max) McNeill has a dream to win the Triumph. He was brave up the straight and got the better of a very tough rival.

“I would say it was a fair race.”

Tom Cannon made the best of what he described as a “dream come true” in picking up the spare ride via his agent Dave Roberts on Craigneiche, a clear-cut winner of the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle.

Owing to Nico de Boinville partnering Buveur D’Air at Haydock and Jerry McGrath’s absence through injury, Cannon stepped in for a first ride for Nicky Henderson and the combination pulled seven lengths clear of Arrivederci on the run-in.

Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche
Tom Cannon enjoyed a dream spare ride on Craigneiche (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Craigneiche carried bottom weight of 10st 6lb and made Cannon’s morning run to make the weight worth every second as he powered home at 14-1.

The jockey enthused: “Dave Roberts texted me on Thursday morning to tell me about the ride and my mum was so thrilled she cut it out of the paper and put it in her scrapbook on the mantel piece. And I must admit I had to pinch myself .

“I could very easily have been at another meeting riding for Alan King or Chris Gordon, and thought I would be scrabbling around for a ride so it was a good feeling to get the news.

“I chatted with Nicky, who thought he was on an appropriate mark and said he’d been working well and that he gets on his toes, but although he felt fresh he settled.”

Betfair introduced the winner at 16-1 for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde
Charlie Hammond enjoyed a winner to remember with Enqarde (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Charlie Hammond notched a first career success at Ascot when Enqarde (4-1) overcame a tendency to jump left to land the Matchbook Best Odds Handicap Chase.

The former French-based gelding, trained by Dr Richard Newland, responded to hands and heels riding to score by three and a half lengths and two from Cobolobo and Crossley Tender.

Hammond said: “He got into a lovely rhythm, but I had to keep him up to his work from the bottom of the hill. I think he might have got there too soon, but he jumped super and luckily kept going all the way to the line, showing a great attitude.”

Hammond explained that his season has turned a corner since November and added: “I made a steady start but have got going in the last couple of months, especially for outside stables.”

Haydock goes ahead

Haydock’s Peter Marsh meeting will go ahead after the course passed an early-morning inspection.

Saturday’s seven-race card was subject to a scheduled 8am check because of the threat of frost, having already survived the ravages of the midweek Storm Christoph.

However, the inspection was brought forward to 7am, and a Tweet from Haydock’s official account confirmed shortly after 7.15am that the course was fit for racing.

Taunton’s eight-race card was given the go-ahead before a scheduled 8am inspection there too, as overnight conditions relented sufficiently.

Haydock will stage four Grade Two events, including the feature Peter Marsh Handicap Chase – while dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air makes his long-awaited return from injury against just two rivals in the The New One Unibet Hurdle.

An update from the track read: “Today’s precautionary inspection has passed! The Going is Heavy.”

Temperatures had been forecast to fall below freezing overnight, but they did not do so.

There remains a “slight chance of sleety snow flurries” at the Merseyside venue – but Haydock’s card, which had already passed a Thursday inspection after being waterlogged in places earlier in the week, will get under way at 12.55.

The ground at Taunton is soft, heavy in places – as it is at Ascot, where the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House is the highlight of a seven-race card.

Navan, the sole Saturday card scheduled in Ireland, will not however take place – after the course failed an 8am inspection, with the track “frozen and unfit for racing”.

Hales has full confidence in Politologue

Owner John Hales is confident Politologue will prove hard to beat in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained grey appeared to be on the decline after he was found to have broken blood vessels when suffering his sixth successive defeat in the 2019 Tingle Creek at Sandown.

However, he roared back to his best when following in the hoofprints One Man and Azertyuiop to provide his owner with a third victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and then picked up where he left off by bagging a second Tingle Creek last month – three years after his first.

Hales hopes his latest crack two-miler will finally be given the credit he deserves if he can add another Grade One success to his CV at Ascot on Saturday – a race in which Azertyuiop came up narrowly short when conceding lumps of weight to Isio in an epic renewal 17 years ago.

Hales said: “He’s very well, and I think he deserves to be favourite after what he did in the Tingle Creek and the Queen Mother before that. I’m not sure what the combined distance of those two wins were, but it must be a fair way.

“He’s always been a magnificent jumper. The season before last, his form was a little bit indifferent, and he didn’t run very well in the Tingle Creek – after which we found out he was bleeding. It’s possible that he’d bled before, and we didn’t pick it up.

“What people seem to have missed is Paul changed his training routine after that, and at the same time he has improved out of all recognition – he’s a different horse.

“We have no concern at all about the ground. He’s a genuine two-and-a-half-mile horse, which you need to be around Cheltenham, and you’ll need to be on Saturday.”

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Harry Skelton partnered Politologue at Cheltenham and at Sandown – but with the rider’s brother Dan training Nube Negra for this season’s Champion Chase, Skelton has given up the mount, meaning Harry Cobden will be reunited with Politologue this weekend.

“Harry Skelton has done a great job for me, and I’m very sorry to see him go,” Hales added.

“It was Harry’s decision. His brother has this horse to run against us in the Queen Mother – and he’s got to ride him, hasn’t he?

“I’m very happy to have Harry Cobden riding our horse, so I’m not complaining.”

Politologue and Harry Cobden in the 2017 Tingle Creek
Politologue and Harry Cobden in the 2017 Tingle Creek (Julian Herbert/PA)

Cobden is looking forward to renewing the partnership with Politologue, having won the Tingle Creek on him in 2017.

He said: “Politologue is the favourite going into it, and I’m just delighted to be back on him.

“Everything he has done since the Tingle Creek last season has been great. The training performance for the Champion Chase was unbelievable. Paul came in one morning and said ‘I’m going to train his horse differently’ – he rewrote all his rules.

“I schooled him Monday, and he jumped great. I saw him work on Thursday morning – and although I didn’t ride him, he seemed in fantastic form, he was very bullish and looked a million dollars.

“I wouldn’t get off Politologue to ride any of the others in the race, because he is the form horse going into it.”

Defi Du Seuil (right) saw off Un De Sceaux in last year's Clarence House Chase
Defi Du Seuil (right) saw off Un De Sceaux in last year’s Clarence House Chase (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Politologue’s rivals include his stablemate Duc Des Genievres and Philip Hobbs’ stable star Defi Du Seuil, who was a red-hot favourite for the Champion Chase after denying the now-retired Un De Sceaux a fourth Clarence House success 12 months ago.

The JP McManus-owned gelding disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival and was pulled up on his seasonal reappearance at Prestbury Park in November, but jockey Richard Johnson hopes he will show his true colours this weekend.

He said: “I was at Phillip’s and schooled him on Wednesday morning, and he was very good. Let’s hope the winners we’ve had recently are a good omen and that Defi can put his last run behind him.

“He’s in good form at home and he’s been given all the time in the world. He feels in rude health, and we go full of hope.

“He’ll have to pull out his A-game, because he’s up against some good horses. He feels sharp at home, wanting to take on the fences – and he’s still a young horse.”

Former Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently was supplemented earlier this week, having made an excellent return from more than a year on the sidelines when runner-up to Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The talented but fragile 10-year-old has proven his versatility over a variety of distances, and trainer Ruth Jefferson is unconcerned by dropping back almost a mile in trip.

Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing, she said: “The ground at Kempton was the fastest I would have run him on, and we’re at the opposite of that spectrum on Saturday – but he’s got form on heavy ground, and I don’t see it being a problem.

“He’s performed at every trip on every sort of going description. It’s a case of him not being the easiest horse to keep sound and healthy – so while we’ve got a sound and healthy horse, we’re going to take our chance to run him.

“I can’t see why the trip will bother the horse, so I’m not going to let it bother me.

“I think there’s less pressure in our situation, because nobody expects you to win – you’re just that small person who might rock up!

“I don’t get excited and I don’t get nervous. You don’t go into a Grade One thinking you’re going to win it, but I think there’s a lot in his favour because he’s versatile trip-wise, he’ll like the ground and likes the track.”

Kim Bailey steps First Flow up in class following five consecutive wins, while Bun Doran (Tom George), Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams) and Le Patriote (Dr Richard Newland) complete the eight-strong field.

Roksana out to uphold Long Walk form back at Ascot

Dan Skelton is hoping Roksana can repeat her excellent Long Walk performance on her return to Ascot for the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle.

The nine-year-old was beaten only two lengths when third to Paisley Park in the Grade One over an extended three miles in December and runs against own her sex again on Saturday.

However, it will be no walkover – because the opposition includes Magic Of Light, winner of this race for the last two years.

“I’m delighted with her – it was a great run in the Long Walk over the course and distance,” said Skelton.

“Obviously Magic Of Light is the one to beat, but I’m also respectful of the others in there.

“I think it’s a strong mares’ race, but I’m very happy with ours.”

Magic Of Light, trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington and runner-up to Tiger Roll in the 2019 Grand National, has already made a successful visit to Britain this season to win a Listed mares’ chase at Newbury for the third year running.

“She is going for a hat-trick in the race and is in great form,” said Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother.

“She is entered in the Gold Cup and the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and mum is thinking of running her in the Gold Cup.”

Magic Of Light is bidding to win Ascot's Grade Two hurdle for a third time
Magic Of Light is bidding to win Ascot’s Grade Two hurdle for a third time (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Paul Nicholls believes Eglantine Du Seuil can give a good account of herself, with the help of a 6lb concession from the big two.

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“She ran a cracker on her latest start for us six weeks ago in a competitive mares’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham, where she came from off the pace to be second to The White Mouse,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“This is a new trip for her – and although I can’t be sure she stays three miles, she was keeping on well at the finish at Cheltenham.

“I’m hopeful Eglantine Du Seuil can run tidily, getting 6lb from two smart mares Magic Of Light and Roksana.”

Jeremy Scott is on a discovery mission with Dashel Drasher, who lines up for the bet365 Handicap Chase.

The Somerset trainer wants to find out if his lightly-raced eight-year-old can mix it with seasoned campaigners off his current mark in a competitive race such as this.

What Dashel Drasher has in his favour is a course-and-distance success on his latest start, albeit a three-horse affair.

“He’s come out of his last race really well. It’s very much to find out whether he’s at that level,” said Scott.

“We’ve only ever raced in those novice chases and a graduation chase, so how solid his handicap mark is we don’t know.

“It’s very much in a decent-sized field. I hope he runs well. I was pleased with the way he raced last time, but this will be a different proposition.”

Rose Dobbin has had this race in mind for Jonniesofa for some time – but did not expect it to be as competitive as it has turned out.

However, she reports the 11-year-old to be in good shape following his victory at Carlisle last month.

“He’s doing really well. He’s in great order. I’m very happy with him,” said the Northumberland trainer.

“We picked out this race a while ago, thinking conditions would suit him. Unfortunately, it seems to be quite a competitive renewal, but we’ll go and take our chance and see how he gets on.”

Skelton reports Bennys King to be in prime condition as he attempts to go one better than 12 months ago.

“He won there last time, (and) two-miles-five is a great trip for him,” said the Alcester trainer.

“He looks fantastic – this is the perfect race for him.

“He’s gone up in the handicap, which is making life harder, but I couldn’t be any happier with him.”

Nicholls was delighted to see Capeland return to winning ways at Wincanton, although it means he must race off a career-high mark.

Capeland is up to a career-high mark on Saturday
Capeland is up to a career-high mark on Saturday (PA)

“I was thrilled to see him bounce back to form with a stylish success a fortnight ago off a mark of 149 at Wincanton, back up in trip to two and a half miles,” he said.

“Capeland is now up to a career-high mark of 153 at a track which we know he likes, but he is another who wouldn’t want any more rain at Ascot.”

Tom Lacey is looking forward to having Kateson back on the track in the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, for the first time in seven weeks.

The Herefordshire trainer believes the eight-year-old runs well when fresh, so has given him a break since he was successful at Aintree.

“He seems in good order. I think the trip on that ground will be right up his street, fingers crossed,” said Lacey.

Tom Lacey has given Kateson a break since his Aintree victory
Tom Lacey has given Kateson a break since his Aintree victory (PA)

“He’s a horse that runs best fresh. We’ve just been waiting to find the races for him.

Nicholls is confident of a strong performance from Danny Kirwan.

The Ditcheat handler said: “He has had one or two issues that have interrupted his career but is now in as good a place as we’ve had him for a long time, and it was great to see him show what he can do with a fluent victory over this trip at Ascot two months ago.

“Next time at Cheltenham he didn’t stay three miles. Danny has been working with Politologue and will be much happier back at this trip on testing ground that he relishes. I am expecting a big run from him in a competitive race.”

Jefferson’s pride and joy Waiting Patiently ready for Ascot again

Ruth Jefferson describes Waiting Patiently as “a joy and a headache to train” as she prepares for his latest attempt at big-race glory at Ascot.

It is coming up to five years since the Flemensfirth gelding broke his duck in a minor novice hurdle at Sedgefield for the now-retired Keith Reveley – and it is fair to say he has had a rollercoaster career ever since.

Having looked a superstar in the making after winning his first five starts over fences for Malcolm Jefferson, he made it six on the bounce with an emotional success in the 2018 Ascot Chase, a Grade One triumph which came just a couple of weeks after his popular trainer’s death.

A whole host of injuries have meant Jefferson’s daughter Ruth has managed to get her aptly-named stable star to the racecourse on just five occasions in the subsequent three years, but she has no doubt he is worth all the effort.

Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing on Thursday, Jefferson said: “He’s a remarkable horse really. I know he’s not young any more, but he’s not run much and doesn’t think he’s old.

“He comes back time and again, and runs his race. You can’t really ask for more than that, but I would like another Grade One on his CV.”

Detailing some of the problems Waiting Patiently has endured, she said: “He had a bone spur that put him out of the Arkle as a novice chaser – then the following season he was due to go to Cheltenham in November, December and January and had a lung infection.

“After he won the Ascot Chase he got a touch of a leg injury, and we didn’t know if we were going to get him back, and since then we’ve had a chip that needed removing and a lung infection was resistant to 16 of 17 antibiotics it was that rare!

“He’s just that sort of horse. There’s always something with him, and you don’t know what’s coming next, but he’s worth spending the money on because he always comes back at that level.

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“He’s a joy and a headache to train. I’m not sure I’ve got another one like him in the yard at the moment – they’re not easy to come across when you’re someone like me.”

Waiting Patiently most recently proved his considerable ability remains very much intact when storming home to fill the runner-up spot behind Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton – his first competitive outing in 12 months.

Jefferson had not even entered her charge for Saturday’s Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase, but decided to supplement him earlier this week at a cost of £5,000, such is his well-being.

“He came out of the King George really well,” she added.

“I had to ride him out two days later, because he’s quite an aggressive horse in his stable and he was going to hurt someone if we didn’t do something with him.

“It came up in conversation with Richard (Collins, owner) that the Clarence House was coming up, and it was a shame we hadn’t put him in. He texted me a few days later and said ‘what do you feel about supplementing him’?

“I told him I wasn’t against that. I said we could see what the ground was going to be like and what the race was going to be like, and if we were happy with him we’d do it – so we did.”

Given Waiting Patiently’s injury record, it is hardly surprising Jefferson is none too keen in looking beyond this weekend’s assignment.

He has been entered for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but his trainer is in no rush to make running plans.

She said: “Straight after the King George Richard rang me up and said ‘we’ll go for the Gold Cup’, but that was literally within 20 minutes of the race and he was very excited to have a Gold Cup contender.

“Five days later he wasn’t quite as convinced and didn’t want to give him a Gold Cup entry, but I said it would make me happy to enter him, and he agreed.

“We’ve put him in everything, because it’s still seven weeks until Cheltenham and I don’t know what the ground is going to be, what’s going to turn up and what’s going to pay the cost to come from Ireland. Why rule it out now when we’ve got seven weeks to think about it?

“The horse is versatile, and we can let the ground decide which way we go, rather than getting excited one way or the other.”

Brian Hughes has been ever-present in the saddle during Waiting Patiently’s 11-race chasing career thus far – and he remains the champion jockey’s only Grade One winner to date.

Hughes said: “He’s an extremely talented horse and extremely versatile. He’s not overly big, but he’s very strong and muscly – and no matter what the trip is, he runs his race.

“We feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, because he’s a northern horse, but he’s a very good horse and has run very good horses to small margins when he’s been beaten.

“Hopefully he shows up again on Saturday, and I’m confident he’ll put up a big show.”

Hughes, who again leads this year’s title race, would love to showcase his talents more on the big stage, and believes his top-level opportunities are more limited because he is based in the north.

He added: “It’s brilliant when you’re riding lots of winners, but when you look back at your career when you’ve finished, you’d like to have a few big races on your CV.

“I’m lucky to have a horse like Waiting Patiently, but I’ve only got one of him – whereas other jockeys have 10 Grade One horses to ride.

“That is just the way the cards fall for different jockeys. You want to have Grade One winners, and trainers want to have them and owners want to have them – that’s always the dream.

“I feel there’s a lot of good trainers, owners and jockeys in the north, and we sort of seem to get looked upon as second-class citizens sometimes. I thought me being champion jockey was something everyone in the north could take a bit of credit for.”

Politologue tops eight Clarence House contenders

Politologue is set to face seven rivals in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero made a flying start to the current campaign when bagging a second victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown – and he is a hot favourite to provide trainer Paul Nicholls with a sixth success in Saturday’s Grade One feature.

The Ditcheat handler also saddles Duc Des Genievres. The grey won the 2019 Arkle at Cheltenham when trained by Willie Mullins and has been placed twice since joining Nicholls, at Cheltenham and Kempton respectively.

Last year’s winner Defi Du Seuil returns to defend his crown – with something to prove.

Defi Du Seuil (right) on his way to winning last year's Clarence House Chase
Defi Du Seuil (right) on his way to winning last year’s Clarence House Chase (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The Philip Hobbs-trained eight-year-old was a red-hot favourite to win the Champion Chase after denying the now-retired Un De Sceaux a fourth Clarence House Chase success 12 months ago.

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However, Defi Du Seuil disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival and again failed to fire on his return at Prestbury Park in November.

Ruth Jefferson decided to supplement her stable star Waiting Patiently earlier this week, at a cost of £5,000.

The former Ascot Chase winner ran an excellent race to finish second to Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and drops almost a mile in distance four weeks later.

Kim Bailey steps First Flow up in class following five consecutive wins at a lower level.

Bun Doran (Tom George), Fanion D’Estruval (Venetia Williams) and Le Patriote (Dr Richard Newland) complete the octet.

Williams told Sky Sports Racing: “I don’t see why the ground should adversely affect him any more than the others. It’s no bad thing, because a race like that is all about sheer speed and hopefully that might take a bit of the edge off it.

“He’s still a young horse, and I think that’s where a lot of the hope and promise comes from.

“It’s easy to forget he started off in a handicap, although winning it very easily at Newbury on his first run for us last season, and since then we’ve pretty much thrown him in at the deep end – this is going to deeper than anything he’s done before.”

Fanion D’Estruval was last seen falling three fences from home in the re-scheduled Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham.

“There were several travelling well. It was far enough out not to be making judgments at that stage,” Williams added.

“The last quarter of a mile was still to be run. We’ve yet to see how he deals with that in this company.

“He’s only just turned six, so I think we’re very much flexible on trip. I suspect in due course he’ll be stepping up in trip.”

All systems go for Politologue at Ascot

Paul Nicholls believes Politologue is at the top of his game ahead of Saturday’s Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero picked up where he left off when landing a second victory in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, and will be a hot favourite to provide his trainer with a record sixth triumph in the Grade One feature.

Harry Skelton was on board the John Hales-owned grey both at Cheltenham and Sandown, but with his brother Dan responsible for a Champion Chase contender this term in Nube Negra, Harry Cobden will be reunited with Politologue this weekend.

Harry Cobden will take over from Harry Skelton on Politologue
Harry Cobden will take over from Harry Skelton on Politologue (John Walton/PA)

Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “Harry is here every day and rides Politologue a lot anyway. He schooled him on Monday and won a Tingle Creek on him (in 2017), so it’s no big issue.

“The horse is in good form and the ground is ideal, so we’re looking forward to it. I think he’s in as good a place as he’s been for a long time – I don’t think Harry has ridden him in the form that he’s in at the moment, apart from when he won the Tingle Creek.

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“We changed things last season after he had that little bleed in the Tingle Creek and he’s not been beaten since. I’ve never known him look better and be so enthusiastic.

“He’ll go straight to Cheltenham after Saturday. It’s absolutely perfect timing for him.”

Politologue is set to be joined by stable companion Duc Des Genievres.

Winner of the 2019 Arkle when trained by Willie Mullins, the eight-year-old was runner-up to Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham in November, before placing third behind Nube Negra at Kempton over the Christmas period.

Nicholls added: “He’s won on soft ground, (but) I’m not convinced he wants it that testing.

“He ran out of petrol up the hill the first day at Cheltenham and the other day (at Kempton) we made a little bit more use of him and he finished tamely.

“He’s got it all to do. We’re going to take our chance as he’s not the easiest horse in the world to place.”

Harry Skelton has enjoyed two big victories with Politologue
Harry Skelton has enjoyed two big victories with Politologue (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Ditcheat handler confirmed Danny Kirwan an intended runner in Ascot’s Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle, while Eglantine Du Seuil is set to contest the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle.

Of the latter, Nicholls said: “She’s a tough, genuine mare who ran very well at Cheltenham the last day.

“Strictly on ratings, she’s got it all to do, but she does get 6lb off Magic Of Light and also Roksana, who looks like she’ll be hard to beat.

“Our mare is in between the devil and the deep blue sea with her rating, but hopefully she’ll run well and get the trip.”

There will be one less rival for Politologue to face, however, with Kate Harrington, assistant trainer to her mother, Jessica, confirming that Impact Factor will not make the journey from Ireland.

Instead, the lightly-raced nine-year-old will stay closer to home for the Dublin Racing Festival.

“Impact Factor won’t go for the Clarence House and will instead run in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase at Leopardstown (February 6),” said Harrington.

Walsh reflects on Clarence House king Un De Sceaux

Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, few Irish-trained jumps horses have captured the hearts of racing fans in recent seasons in quite the way Un De Sceaux did throughout his illustrious career.

A regular in all the top chases under three miles, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was a firm favourite – with his heart-on-the-sleeve front-running tactics helping him strike at Grade One level on 10 occasions before his retirement last year.

Though a dual winner at the Festival with victories in the 2015 Arkle and 2017 Ryanair Chase, it was his domination of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, which he claimed for the first time five years ago, that really set him apart.

Regular rider Ruby Walsh was on board that day and despite having parted company with the O’Connell family’s pride and joy at Leopardstown on his previous start, he was confident compensation awaited in a race Un De Sceaux would make his own.

Un De Sceaux and Ruby Walsh on their way to victory at Ascot
Un De Sceaux and Ruby Walsh on their way to victory at Ascot (Julian Herbert/PA)

Walsh said: “I had looked for a big jump at Leopardstown, he changed his mind and didn’t get high enough in front and tipped over. I wasn’t really that conscious of it going to Ascot.

“We knew he was a hell of a good horse. I didn’t have any worries about his jumping.

“He jumped really well at Ascot that day and he was taking on Sire De Grugy, who had won the Tingle Creek that season. Though it was a compact field, it was a pretty decent race.

“He popped out, went a nice gallop, without going mad, and he was still going real easy when he faced up to the second-last, which he jumped well. Sire De Grugy appeared on his inside, but he picked up well going down to the last and ended up winning quite impressively.”

The reaction of a crowd can be a good guide as to what type of spectacle they have witnessed – and judging by the roar Walsh and Un De Sceaux received from those in the stands, it was clear they had seen a truly unique performance.

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Walsh added: “They did see something special at Ascot that day. I always enjoyed riding at Ascot and even though it is such a vast arena, it always had a way of capturing the atmosphere and I think that is huge at any racecourse.

“We were looking for him to stamp himself as a live Champion Chase horse and he most certainly did that day.”

A rejuvenated Sprinter Sacre would consign Un De Sceaux to the runner-up spot in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at that year’s Festival, but his next visit to Cheltenham in January 2017 would result in the defence of his Clarence House crown, with the race rescheduled due to a frozen track at Ascot the previous week.

Un De Sceaux won a rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham
Un De Sceaux won a rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham (Julian Herbert/PA)

Walsh said: “To be fair, that was a great trial of the horse as he went to Ascot, came back home, then went back to Cheltenham the following weekend and still managed to win. That just shows you what kind of an iron horse he was.

“As a performance, it probably wasn’t as good as his first one, but when you factor in how much travelling he had done, he did incredibly well to win.

“That is another thing very good horses do – even when things aren’t going right, they still put in a good performance and be competitive.”

Although a broken leg would rule Walsh out of attempting a third Clarence House win aboard Un De Sceaux in 2019, he was among those willing on his old ally from the sidelines.

He added: “For sure I was cheering him on. Even when you are injured, you are still part of the team.

“Paul (Townend) rode him that day at Ascot and a bit like his second year, he didn’t look spectacular. The older he got, the less spectacular he became, but he still managed to win.”

Un De Sceaux’s bid for a fourth victory in the race last year was scuppered by Defi Du Seuil, with connections subsequently calling time on his career at the age of 12.

Walsh ranks him among the best he has ridden and added: “He was a bit of a hero to a lot of people and his owners, the O’Connells, got a lot of enjoyment out of him, which was great to see. He is back in France enjoying a happy retirement, which he thoroughly deserves.

“I rode some horses that I considered to have the potential to be great, but never got to become greats as they had short careers.

“You need to have longevity to be a wonderful horse and that is what Un De Sceaux was – his enthusiasm and his consistency was incredible.”

:: On comparing Un De Sceaux with the great two-milers he has ridden:

Ruby Walsh enjoyed great success with Master Minded
Ruby Walsh enjoyed great success with Master Minded (David Davies/PA)

“It’s impossible to cross-compare horses from Ayzertiyoup to Kauto Star to Twist Magic to Master Minded, Un De Sceaux and Douvan. I rode a lot of good two-milers.

“I’m just grateful they all came one after another and they didn’t come at the same time. Some people would have loved to have seen all these horses in one race together, but I’m just glad they came one after another and that I got the chance to ride them all.”

:: On watching the Ascot race growing up:

Viking Flagship is one of the famous names on the Ascot roll of honour
Viking Flagship is one of the famous names on the Ascot roll of honour (Barry Batchelor/PA)

“It was a race I grew up watching the likes of Viking Flagship racing in it on the BBC. It was a race that definitely helped me want to be a jockey.

“It was one of those races you watched on a Saturday and you were waiting for it, as it is a thrilling contest.

“One of my earliest memories of it was watching Desert Orchid beating Panto Prince as a kid and then thinking ‘imagine being part of that’.”

:: On the toughness of Un De Sceaux:

“In Britain he won twice at the Festival, a Tingle Creek, three Clarence Houses, and he ran in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.

“He was not quite a globetrotter like Magic Wand on the Flat, but he did move around a fair bit as he raced in Auteuil a good bit as well.

“He did rack up the miles and it is not as straightforward for a horse to travel like a human, so it was fair going out of him.”

Harry Cobden takes over on Politologue at Ascot

Harry Cobden will be back aboard Politologue in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday, after Harry Skelton agreed to relinquish the ride.

Skelton steered the Paul Nicholls-trained grey to victory in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last season and the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December.

However, Skelton is set to have a clash of interests when it comes to this year’s Champion Chase in March. He is stable jockey to his brother Dan and they have a leading contender in Nube Negra, who defeated Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton last month.

Harry Skelton celebrates winning the Champion Chase with Politologue
Harry Skelton celebrates winning the Champion Chase with Politologue (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Skeltons, and their father, Olympic showjumper Nick, are long-standing friends of Politologue’s owner John Hales. They are believed to have discussed the matter, resulting in Skelton giving up the ride.

Nicholls confirmed to the PA news agency Cobden will be back in the plate for Politologue’s last race before he defends his Champion Chase crown.

Cobden has ridden Politologue six times, winning the Tingle Creek in 2017 and finishing second to Altior in the Champion Chase in 2019.

Politologue is the 5-4 favourite with Coral for the Ascot feature, ahead of King George third Waiting Patiently at 5-2.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “Politologue gave Harry Skelton his biggest win when the pair won last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, but it will be Harry Cobden on board the grey this weekend and at the Cheltenham Festival, although Harry Skelton still has a chance of winning the race again this March, with Nube Negra one of the leading contenders at 10-1.”

Waiting Patiently enters Clarence House reckoning

Waiting Patiently is set to make a surprise appearance in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase, after being supplemented for the Grade One over an extended two miles at Ascot.

Connections of the Ruth Jefferson-trained gelding decided to add him to the field at the five-day confirmation stage for Saturday’s feature, because he had taken his run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day so well.

The lightly-raced 10-year-old, owned by Richard Collins, finished strongly to take second place behind Frodon in the Christmas showpiece on his first start since December 2019.

That race was over three miles. But Waiting Patiently is versatile trip wise and will appreciate the rain, between 24 and 27 centimetres, which is forecast this week between Monday evening and Thursday on ground already described as soft.

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“He came out of the King George really well, ridiculously well, in himself,” said Jefferson.

“I was mad with myself I didn’t enter him in the first place – and we felt a couple of weeks ago if he was all right, and there was plenty of rain about, we’d have a crack at it.

“It gives us a bit more time to think about Cheltenham rather than wait for the Ascot Chase (next month). We might go for that race, but we thought we’d run him while he was well in himself – and it frees up other options.

“They might get a frost but they are due about 25 millimetres of rain first at Ascot, so it’s going to be right up his street ground wise. He handles it better than most.”

His nine potential rivals are headed by Politologue. The Paul Nicholls-trained grey won last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and made a successful seasonal debut in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last month.

Politologue heads the 10 five-day entries for the Ascot Grade One
Politologue heads the 10 confirmations for the Ascot Grade One (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Also in the mix is last year’s winner Defi Du Seuil, trained by Philip Hobbs. The eight-year-old has not run since disappointing in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November.

Nicholls also has Duc Des Genievres in the list, while Jessica Harrington’s Impact Factor is the sole Irish-trained possible.

Completing the list are Benatar, Bun Doran, Fanion D’Estruval, First Flow and Le Patriote.

Riders Onthe Storm and Sizing Pottsie were the two scratchings from the entry stage.