32Red Listed Casino Chase (Listed) | 2m41/2f | 5yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Waiting Patiently, one of the hopes of the north, puts his unbeaten chasing record on the line in the Listed Casino Chase at Kempton on Saturday to establish whether he has real championship potential.
His four wins from four races over fences include the significant scalp of Politologue in a novice chase a year ago and after a winning return he faces another test against Grade 1 regulars Josses Hill, Smad Place and God's Own.
Waiting Patiently has his first run since winning Carlisle's Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase in November and will be a rare runner for Malton trainer Malcolm Jefferson at Kempton.
"He's done everything right so far," said Jefferson's daughter Ruth. "He had a little setback when we were getting him ready for his second run – he had a bit of a head cold – so we let him get over that.
"He has to step up again on what he's done. He's giving weight to God's Own, who is a Grade 1 winner, and on revised ratings has a good chance. But you can't run away from good horses at this level, you must have a go to see where you stand."
Waiting Patiently has entries in the Ryanair and Betway Queen Mother Champion Chases and will be Jefferson's first runner for at least five seasons at a track where he landed the 1999 Christmas Hurdle with Dato Star.
"He's entered at Cheltenham but he definitely wants cut in the ground," Jefferson said. "We would have left him for the Clarence House at Ascot if we could have guaranteed heavy ground over two miles, but the forecast was dry and the ground was fine at Kempton. If he's to run on good to soft or soft he wants two and a half miles."
Nicky Henderson has won the race for the last two years and in Josses Hill has a horse with two wins and two places from five appearances at Kempton. He was second to stablemate Top Notch in the Peterborough Chase last time.
"Josses Hill is in very good form," said Henderson. "It's a pity he's got to give all the penalties away but he does love Kempton."
Smad Place also concedes weight but is another experienced horse with course form. Trainer Alan King said: "Victory in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in the autumn meant Smad Place would be too high for any more handicaps, and this race might suit him well."
God's Own beat Vautour at Punchestown and Al Ferof at Aintree in 2016 and, in receipt of weight from the main challengers, is well in at the ratings, but he is often better in March and April than January.
Trainer Tom George said: "The conditions of the race suit him well but he hasn't had a run for a long time. The spring is his time of year and the festivals are what we have aimed for for the last three of four years, but we need to get a run into him and this is the platform for that."
Paul Nicholls's assistant Harry Derham said Art Mauresque has "a lot of improvement to find with his opponents", while Nigel Twiston-Davies reported Ballybolley would enjoy "the galloping track and the better ground".