Anthony Honeyball saw his patience rewarded as Jepeck pulled off his long-term masterplan with a dramatic victory in the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase series final.
The 11-year-old was returning to fences for the first time since qualifying for this Sandown race at Carlisle back in March – behind subsequent Scottish Grand National hero Takingrisks.
But victory came only after Jepeck survived a late scare, courtesy of the attentions of a loose horse.
Hitting the front approaching the second last, jockey Rex Dingle had to take evasive action on the 3-1 favourite as Horatio Hornblower – an earlier casualty – threatened to carry him out.
The winner then rallied well, however, to hold long-time leader Regal Flow by a short head.
Dorset trainer Honeyball said: “With the 129 (rating), we were not sure if we had much in hand.
“But the facts were that the only veterans’ chase we’d run in before today, the winner went on to win the Scottish National, so we thought we would go hurdling (first).
“This season we threw a few ideas about, so we thought ‘why not go in a novice hurdle?’ We can go left-handed over hurdles, because his jumping (to the right) is not such a big deal – so we had a bit of fun hurdling.
“I thought there was a good chance he would run to this mark, or beyond it.
“We already had a good season, so to pocket that is great. I was not quite sure how bad it was if we were going to get taken out – but thankfully he came back in, and had enough in reserve.”
While not committing to any immediate plans, Honeyball intends to prepare Jepeck for the defence of his crown in 12 months’ time.
He added: “He will probably look for a veterans’ qualifier before the end of the season.
“I don’t want to qualify him next season – I want him qualified before then. We will then come back here, all guns blazing.”
A delighted Dingle was full of praise for Jepeck’s tenacity to overcome Horatio Hornblower’s late attentions.
He said: “I was going well enough turning for home – and I don’t know what it was like behind me.
“But that horse impeded me by a couple of lengths, so he was very good to get back up and get his head in front.
“He was very genuine to stay in between the wings, because he could have quite easily gone that way, and I saw that happening right in front of my eyes – so I was half-prepared for it.
“He was good to stay straight and jump the fence and get his head back in front. That is by far my highest-profile win. It’s brilliant.”