WITH seven winners since Boxing Day, including three in the space of 24 hours last weekend, Malcolm Jefferson has his horses in red-hot form as the new year gathers pace.
“It’s how it goes sometimes, you get a good run, and it’s nice when it happens,” says the Norton trainer, who is considering aiming his exciting young hurdler Urban Hymn at the prestigious River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster later this month.
The gelding posted a wide-margin win at Haydock over the festive period to confirm his prowess as a rising star. “He’s a lovely horse. The ground was very testing, which is not really what he wants, but he gallops away and is a very neat jumper,” says Jefferson, who is counting down the days to when Urban Hymn, already a point-to-point winner, goes novice chasing next season.
Cape Tribulation, the highest-rated chaser in the Jefferson string, showed signs of a return to form when third in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day. His next target is likely to be the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, as opposed to Cheltenham’s Grade 2 Argento Chase, which he won last year.
“The handicapper has dropped him a little bit, so the Peter Marsh looks the race for him this time,” says the trainer, who has also pencilled in Haydock for Oscar Rock, who finished third in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury during the festive period.
“I just think I may have been over-training him,” admits Malcolm. “When he won at Wetherby on his first run of the season, he was fit and fresh and he really travelled. Even though he’s run in two better races since, he’s never looked quite the same. I am going to back off him a little bit and, having already done so, it’s amazing how well-rounded he looks again since he ran at Newbury. There’s a three miles novice for him at Haydock – I think he needs three miles as he’s a real galloper – and we’ll see how he gets on there.”
As for Secrete Stream, a good winner at Wetherby’s Christmas meeting, he is likely to return to the course to bid for a follow-up over hurdles.
“It’s not this Saturday, it’s the next meeting at Wetherby,” Jefferson pointed out. “He’s a lovely horse and one we’ve always liked a lot.”
Jefferson was particularly pleased last weekend to see a couple of his younger brigade make a big impression in bumpers. Coozan George, having his second career start, won handsomely at Musselburgh on Friday, while Oleohneh made a winning debut at Newcastle the following afternoon.
“Coozan George is a real nice horse. Whether we send him hurdling this season, we’ll have to see, but if he could defy a penalty in another bumper we would probably leave hurdling him until next season and think about running him in the Aintree bumper at the Grand National meeting in April.”
The same fixture could also be the target for Oleohneh, whose comfortable Newcastle win stamped her as a newcomer with a bright future. Jefferson, who knows her family well and who trained her sister Issaquah to win in Listed company, is considering the mares’ bumper at Aintree as a likely target for her, particularly if she can win again in the meantime.
Oleohneh is a spirited individual. “She was a right ‘madam’ to break in and dropped a few people on the gallops,” reveals Malcolm. “But she’s really started to come to herself in the last six weeks or so. She’s a decent mare from a great family.”
Jefferson, who initiated his Newcastle double with Retrieve The Stick, a daughter of Anabranch, who was a prolific winner for the Newstead stable and who has since proved a successful brood mare, clearly has plenty of ammunition to fire in the coming weeks and months.
He is already on 19 winners for the season, which is only four short of his total score for the whole of last term. In his current form, Malcolm Jefferson should soon be heading for new heights. Who knows, he might even be able to match his best-ever tally of 31 winners, achieved in the 2006/07 campaign.
• WHATEVER George Chaloner received at Christmas must have paled into insignificance compared to what he picked up at Lingfield last Saturday.
The Ryedale apprentice, who had returned to the saddle only the previous evening at Wolverhampton after a two week break, scored on Kyllachy Star to post a milestone success. It was Chaloner’s 50th career victory, which reduced his claim to the minimum 3lb.
“What a way to start 2014,” said the young rider, who is attached to Richard Fahey’s Malton yard. “I had a great season last year and I am hoping to continue it this time around. I had some spin at Lingfield. Kyllachy Star is a grand old horse, who has dropped to a decent mark in the handicap. There was a bit of argy-bargy in the race early on, but that didn’t bother me much and he came home really well in the straight.”
Chaloner wasted no time doubling his 2014 score. At Wolverhampton on Monday, he gained a 4-1 success on Dance For Georgie, trained at Middleham by Ben Haslam.
• A RYEDALE horse, who failed to beat a single rival in his first two racecourse appearances, has since turned into a winning machine.
Perfect Pasture, trained by Mick Easterby at Sheriff Hutton, has won his last six races and has elevated his handicap rating by some 40lbs.
Indeed, the four-year-old has not tasted defeat since opening his winning account at his seventh attempt last August.
His latest success came at Lingfield last Saturday when, racing off a mark of 93, he won a valuable six furlongs handicap by two lengths from Rivellino in the hands of Adam Kirby.
It’s a far cry from Haydock and Chester in August and September 2012 – his first two outings when he finished sixth of six and eighth of eight. Not raced again as a two-year-old, Perfect Pasture took five outings last season to get off the mark – at Hamilton in early August when, ridden by Duran Fentiman and wearing a visor for the first time, he won a handicap off a measly mark of 57.
Since then, with the visor retained, he has won at Carlisle, Nottingham and Redcar on the turf and at Kempton and Lingfield on a Polytrack surface. “He’s an absolute belter,” says David Easterby, the trainer’s son and assistant. “I have no idea where he’ll run next, but there is a lot of good prize money around so we’re going to try and get it.”
• THE Langton Wold gallops, used by a host of Ryedale trainers, is to get a massive refurbishment thanks largely to a grant which has been warmly welcomed.
The Langton Wolds Gallops Committee, of which Malcolm Jefferson is chairman, has been informed that its application for a grant, worth some £47,000, has been approved by the BHA through its Racing Foundation, a scheme funded by part of British Horseracing’s share of the proceeds from the sale of the Tote and designed to support worthwhile projects which will benefit horseracing and its associated industries.
In Malton’s case, the grant will go towards completing the final four furlongs of the mile-and-quarter all-weather gallop. “It’s great news,” said Jefferson, who was thankful to Mike Goodfellow for compiling the application. “It’s going to cost £100,000 to do the job and we have to find the other half of the money, which is how the scheme works. It will be great when it’s done.”
Work on the gallop, which runs around the perimeter of Langton Wolds, is due to begin in the spring. “It needs to bedone during a dry spell so we’re looking at April or May,” said Jefferson. “It’ll be lovely to have it completed as it’s the sort of gallop that gets horses into a good rhythm and encourages them to settle and to breathe properly.”
• TAKE note that Mick Easterby’s annual point-to-point at Sheriff Hutton takes place this Sunday, January 12.
The popular event, which will again feature some cracking racing, is in aid of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance,