Malcolm Jefferson: My Stable
It is no secret National Hunt racing in the north of England and Scotland is not in a prosperous position just now, but one man who appears well stocked for the forthcoming season is Malcolm Jefferson.
Cyrus Darius: Big hope for Malcolm Jefferson
Based in Malton, North Yorkshire, the softly-spoken Jefferson learned his trade with the late Gordon Richards before buying Newstead Cottage Stables in 1981 and remains there to this day.
He broke his Cheltenham Festival duck in 1994 when Tindari won the Pertemps Final, and 12 months later notched a notable feather in his cap in becoming the first trainer based in Britain to win the Champion Bumper with Dato Star, who remains the horse to which most people link Jefferson.
A Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and two Fighting Fifths at Newcastle proved his class, but he never got enough give in the ground to show his absolute best at Cheltenham again.
In 2012 Jefferson pulled off a marvellous double when both Cape Tribulation and Attaglance won handicaps at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, and in the shape of the returning Cyrus Darius, the classy Urban Hymn, Scottish Champion Hurdle runner-up Cloudy Dream and Double W's he has a strong team with which to go to war with.
There is also an unbeaten youngster in his care who has won both his bumpers and Jefferson has high hopes for: "If he's as good as I hope he is we'll be all right. He looks like a Saturday horse."
As is the case in this game, though, Jefferson has already been sourcing what he hopes are the stars of the future.
"We've got some nice three- and four-year-olds in, which you always need as new blood," he said.
"We've a nice Presenting owned by Trevor (Hemmings), a half-brother to Mountain Hawk and another for Trevor by Robin Des Champs. We have some nice youngsters, a lovely three-year-old by Doyen. They are nice, but they won't run until the turn of the year, when they are ready."
But without a doubt the big hope for the yard is Cyrus Darius. Last seen scrambling home on his chasing debut at Perth in September last year, it later transpired he had picked up an injury which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
A big chasing type, the fact he won a Grade Two over hurdles at the 2015 Grand National meeting by 10 lengths beating horses from the powerhouse yards of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Harry Fry has got a lot of people excited.
The recent dry spell had delayed him somewhat but ground permitting he should reappear at Haydock next month in a graduation chase and he is just the type of horse those races were made for.
"He might start at Haydock on November 18," said Jefferson.
"I've always said he was going to be a chaser. We desperately need some rain though, we haven't been able to school on the grass or anything but he's been working away.
"He's been in since mid-September and he's on the walker quite a bit, but he hasn't done any fast work yet. He's coming on great and I couldn't be happier with him.
"The year off has given him time to properly fill out. If I could have made him I'd have given him the same engine but made him a hand less, but that's being picky!
"I've no idea where he might end up, we'll just take it a race at a time."
While Cyrus Darius is the big hope for the year given what he has already achieved, one who could go on to match those achievements is the Hemmings-owned Mount Mews.
Not known for talking up his horses, it is clear the regard with which Jefferson holds this five-year-old, winner of both his bumpers.
"He's going to be a very nice horse," said Jefferson.
"He won his two bumpers easily, the second with his penalty was even more impressive, which bodes well.
"He's about three weeks away from a run, I think. We won't aim too high, too soon, just steady away, but he's going to be a nice horse.
"If he's as good as I hope he is we'll be all right. He looks like a Saturday horse. He still has to prove that he is, but he looks it at this stage. He jumps well which is a good start.
"He's a bigger and stronger horse than Cloudy Dream was at the same stage, but they are two different types."
Malcolm Jefferson with an insight on the rest of his big hopes for the season:
"He's going novice chasing. Trevor (Hemmings) likes his chasers and so do I, in truth. He was unlucky up at Ayr but you can't go back and do it again, can you? It was the Scottish Champion Hurdle but that is some way removed from the Champion Hurdle, he was still beaten off 133 so there's no point in messing about. Touch wood, he jumps very well."
"He didn't put a foot wrong on his chasing debut at Carlisle the other week. On October 30 there's a novice handicap at Wetherby or there's a similar race at Carlisle for him. It depends what the handicapper does with him, I suppose. It's very hard to find races for these novices now, but the novice handicaps are quite handy, especially the limited ones, it gives these horses a bit of a chance. So that's the idea with him at the moment. He'll go on good to soft, what I'd like to do is get enough experience into him before the ground goes very soft."
"He's ready to run, but he needs rain. He's an improver and he could improve a bit more. He won well at the Scottish National meeting. He'll be a nice handicapper if he's given the chance to be. I'm not saying he's a Grade One horse, but if the handicapper doesn't kill him he could run in some nice races. He's a nice horse and we like him a lot, he's a big horse who will keep improving, I won't overdo him this year. One day he could be a type for all the nice staying handicap chases."
Firth Of Clyde
"He could be very hard to place this year. He won two races last year that weren't very good in my opinion and he got good two big hikes. He went up five for winning at Sedgefield and six for Carlisle. He's rising 12 and starts on 147. Thank god he can run in the veteran races. I think he's the highest-rated horse in the yard, which is silly. He'll either go to Wetherby or Liverpool. I know he's won over three miles, but I think he's better over shorter. He's a grand horse."
Master Of Finance
"He came from Mark Johnston and he was pretty smart on the Flat. He jumped well at Hexham on his hurdling debut apart from a mistake at the last which cost him, Brian (Hughes) thought he probably should have waited until he jumped the last to hit the front. He's come out of it well which is the main thing as he'd gone a bit sour on the Flat. He's only a five-year-old and it might not be the worst thing in the world he got beat as he can go for a similar race without a penalty now, but their not that easy to find as he isn't a National Hunt-bred."
"She is a nice filly, she won first time out but then ours weren't running right when we sent her to Perth, whether they were short of work or what I don't know, but she was beaten too far (54 lengths) for it to be her true running. We'll go down the mares' novice hurdle route with her and I'll be very disappointed if she doesn't make up into a decent mare. I'm looking for a race for her."
"He might start off in the West Yorkshire Hurdle. I find it hard to run him as he must have nice ground and I know he won that good race at Market Rasen last year but he came back jarred up, it was touch and go whether he'd run again last season. He's a good horse but he's in a bad spot, he's very high over fences (148) and he could be one of those that it's hard to find a race for. He's not not up to Grade Ones, yet he'll struggle to win off that mark.
Pair Of Jacks
"I thought Brian had done everything right in the Bobby Renton. He's another who has won over three miles, but I think it stretches him. He's not well handicapped, he won a few races last summer and they've never let up on him. The races he won in the summer weren't very good and when you try and win races off the higher marks in the winter it is very hard. He won't run much in the winter, anyway, as he needs nice ground."
"He's a very nice horse, he won the River Don a couple of years ago but it hasn't worked over fences for him so far. He's doing very well, I'm really pleased with him and he's moving great. I need to have a word with the owners, but we are thinking of the big Fixed Brush race at Haydock if he gets his ground. I wouldn't mind giving him a run beforehand, whether that was a hurdle or a chase wouldn't matter."
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