Waiting Patiently made it six out of six over fences and provided Ruth Jefferson with her first Grade 1 success only 48 hours after her first winner since taking over the licence from her late father Malcolm when taking the Ascot Chase yesterday. The Flemensfirth gelding was rated 123 when joining the Jefferson stable at the start of last season and hasn't stopped improving since. A winner at Carlisle and Kempton earlier this campaign, he entered yesterday's contest with an official mark of 164 and passed the test with flying colours. Held up by Brian Hughes, he cruised upsides Cue Card on the approach to the final fence and, whilst not particularly fluent at the last, he found plenty for pressure to register a cosy two and three parts of a length win. Only 24 hours after Malcolm's funeral, it was a tremendous result for everyone concerned and also a further boost to northern jump racing. Both Waiting Patiently and Sam Spinner have registered Grade 1 victories at Ascot this winter. Given his preference for easy ground, it remains to be seen whether the seven year old will head to Gloucestershire next month for the Ryanair Chase or is saved for Aintree, if he runs again this season. His owner is already looking towards the King George next term. Wherever he heads next, Waiting Patiently has done his connections proud.
I was working at Haydock yesterday and turning for home I was more than optimistic that Wild West Wind would make amends for his fall in the Welsh National by taking the Grand National Trial. However, the whole complexion of the race changed between three out and the second last as Adrian Heskin's gelding seemingly went from travelling strongly to nothing in a matter of strides. Tom George's gelding had raced too keenly during the first circuit but, even allowing for that, he emptied rapidly in the closing stages and eventually refused at the penultimate fence. It was a disappointing outcome, to say the least. The prize was won by Yala Enki trained by Venetia Williams, who was sending out only her seventeenth winner of the season. Considering, the Herefordshire based handler was responsible for a personal best 90 winners during the 2012/13 season, it has been a poor campaign for the yard. This was a welcome change of fortune though. The ante-post Grand National favourite Blaklion finished a remote second following an indifferent round of jumping. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies felt the heavy ground proved his undoing. Fourth in the National last season, it will be interesting to see if this gruelling effort will leave its mark.
The most impressive winner at the Merseyside track was Chef Des Obeaux in the Grade 2 staying novices' hurdle. The ex-French gelding relished the step up to three miles at Kempton on his previous start and it was a similar story here as Noel Fehily's mount ran out a ready fifteen lengths winner. Brindisi Breeze managed to win the same contest en route to success in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham a few years ago and Nicky Henderson's charge will seek to do likewise. Drier ground would be an unknown though. The six year old is one of a number of highly promising novices owned by Jared Sullivan with his others including Stormy Ireland, Laurina and Duc De Genievres. I texted Jared last night and I am delighted to annouce that there will be an interview with him regarding his Festival runners in my Cheltenham preview next month. He has a formidable team.
Please don't forget to order your copy of the One Jump Ahead Cheltenham Festival Update - it is priced at £10.00 and available to buy via the Publications section of the site. I am working at Carlisle tomorrow so will be back to update the Diary next week. In the meantime, I will also be continuing to work on Ahead On The Flat.
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