Talking Horses: Waiting Patiently misses Irish trip as snow threat looms

Ruth Jefferson says that Waiting Patiently is now being aimed at the Ascot Chase a fortnight on Saturday

Waiting Patiently goes clear to win at Ascot last February. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Waiting Patiently has been ruled out of a trip to the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend, partly because the ground is currently too dry for him and partly because of a threatening weather forecast, raising some possibility that the prestigious two days of action at Leopardstown may have to be postponed.

The risk of snow and low temperatures for the area south of Dublin this week are a concern to course officials and Ruth Jefferson, trainer of Waiting Patiently, said: “In the circumstances, I can’t really justify taking him over there. They tell me it’s good going on the chase course just now and we really need it to be softer than that. So we’ll stay at home and hope for rain.”

Jefferson added that Waiting Patiently is now being aimed at the Ascot Chase a fortnight on Saturday, a Grade One contest which he won last year. If all goes well, he will then go to the Cheltenham Festival for the Ryanair Chase.

The Gold Cup has been mooted as a possible target for the eight-year-old but Jefferson has killed off that option, having decided against making an entry. “We had our chance to find out if he stayed three miles in the King George, but unfortunately that didn’t end well,” she said. Waiting Patiently’s rider was unseated at halfway in the Kempton race when the horse was badly impeded by a faller.

Lorcan Wyer, clerk of the course at Leopardstown, said: “The forecast is now telling us there’ll be 10-20mm of either rain, sleet or snow on Thursday. The temperatures are due to go below freezing at night this week so, if that did fall as snow, it might be slow to clear. It’s not a nuclear forecast but it’s something we’re mindful of and we’re
not dismissing it.”

One British horse who is currently an intended traveller is Knocknanuss. “He’s going over for the Arkle on Saturday,” said Gary Moore, who has only had three runners in Irish jump races in more than 20 years with a licence. “He’s second favourite, so must have a chance, and the lads that own him want to see the rugby as well.”

Grand National in Honeyball’s sights as stable stars return

Some excellent news to share, which is that the Dorset stable of Anthony Honeyball is on the way back from the sickness that has all but closed it for the last six weeks. The trainer tells me: “I’d be happy to run nearly anything at the minute,” and he has 10 different horses entered for races on Thursday and Friday.

That’s a big deal because, since the end of December, Honeyball has only been happy to run one horse, Mistress Massini, who arrived in his stable after the bug that affected his other horses. She has done him proud, winning twice this month, and will go again at Ludlow on Monday but the trainer is relieved to report that her stablemates now seem in similarly good heart.

“Early-season, we couldn’t have been happier. But then a few things weren’t quite adding up and the final straw was when we ran Acey Milan at Plumpton and he just didn’t fire at all, and he’s a decent horse. We felt we had to back off and we’ve given them the time. They were never working poorly at home but on the racecourse they weren’t right.”

Anthony Honeyball pictured at Exeter races. Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Having taken the cautious approach, Honeyball reports his horses now seem to be in a better place. “We’re happy enough to resume and if any of the better ones misfire again, we can rough them off for the season, put it down to experience and bring them back in the autumn.”

Two of his star horses, Ms Parfois and Acey Milan, now have what the trainer calls “a serious date on their agenda” in comeback races at Exeter a week on Sunday. “That’ll make or break our season with them. Ms Parfois will go in a Listed chase for mares, you’d expect her to be winning or bang there and if that goes well she’d go for the Midlands National or the Ultima at Cheltenham and then on to the Grand National.”

Good luck to Honeyball when he runs all these horses. I think he’ll be winning at Ludlow on Monday with Mistress Massini (4.00), a 13-8 shot.

Earlier on that card, we’re now being offered 100-30 about Cara’s Way (2.20), which looks generous. She won at Doncaster three weeks ago, making her handicap debut on her first run after joining Philip Kirby from Gordon Elliott, and did so despite a significant mid-race error. She’s only been inched up the ratings and I think she’ll be hard to beat.

Pick of the Kempton card could be Urtheonethatiwant (3.10). He was backed from 8-1 to 11-4 for his handicap debut at Warwick last month but the lack of a recent run told and he was fourth of 15 in the end. Connections are only getting 11-4 this time but I dare say he can do better.

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