By Jon Lees
Ruth Jefferson is hoping Waiting Patiently can enjoy a change of luck when the best chaser in the north of England heads to the West Country on Tuesday, where he will attempt to refashion himself as a two-miler.
After a winless last season focused around testing his credentials at three miles, which ended in frustration when he unseated in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Waiting Patiently is set to race over the shortest distance he has tackled in nearly three years in the two-mile-one-furlong Coral Haldon Gold Cup.
Down the years Exeter’s feature chase has provided an annual springboard into the campaign for many of the sport’s best known jumpers, among them Politologue and Cue Card.
Cue Card was to become Waiting Patiently’s most high-profile victim when the Jefferson runner beat his opponent in the Betfair Ascot Chase in February 2018.
That proved to be the gelding’s last victory and when he returned for the King George he was knocked out of the race before he could be asked any questions when Bristol De Mai came down at the ninth.
When he attempted to win a second Ascot Chase he had no answer to the emerging Cyrname.
“He had no luck last season,” said Jefferson. “You couldn’t predict what happened in the King George and you couldn’t have prevented it. He was in good form going into it.
“We didn’t feel he enjoyed Ascot in February. The ground wouldn’t may have been as soft as he’d have liked – and I am not making excuses because he was beaten fair and square – but we just felt he didn’t enjoy himself on that ground. Then we were just a bit disappointed at Aintree (where he was beaten by Min).
“This the start of a new campaign. He is one of those horses that enjoys soft ground and handles it better than a lot of other horses so we hope it will keep soft at Exeter, although it wasn’t bottomless when he won at Kempton in January last year.”
Waiting Patiently will be a rare runner for the stable at Exeter, but not the first. Roman Ark, trained by Malcolm Jefferson for Waiting Patiently’s owner Richard Collins, contested the 2008 Haldon Gold Cup, in which he was pulled up.
His programme will depend on how he handles the shorter trip, said Jefferson.
“It all depends what we learn when we put him back over two miles,” she said. “He is either a two-miler or two-and-half-miler, but we never found out if he is a three-miler.
“So we thought we would drop back and start afresh. He is either going to be fast enough for two miles still or he isn’t, in which case we will be looking at the two-and-a-half-mile route.
“We have races in mind, but if he shows on Tuesday he is fast enough for two miles then we can look at the two-mile races and if he isn’t we will look at the two-and-a-half-mile races.
“There is no point saying this is his route because it might change.”