Huge attendance as racing pays final respects to much-loved Malcolm Jefferson
Such was the esteem in which Malcolm Jefferson was held by the racing community that hundreds from all over the British Isles thronged to the historic St Mary's Church in Old Malton on Friday to pay their final respects to the popular trainer who died earlier this month.
Around 500 people attended the service of thanksgiving conducted by the Reverend Peter Robinson, with all the seats being taken up more than half an hour before the start and more than 100 of those present having to stand outside in the cold.
The congregation represented the complete spectrum of racing, from grooms to officials, and there were more jockeys, trainers and owners than you would see on an afternoon at Wetherby.
In a personal tribute his son-in-law James Ambrose said: "Malcolm epitomised everything good about mankind. He would have been humbled to have seen so many people here today."
Ambrose recounted how, having worked for Gordon Richards at Greystoke for 13 years – where he met Sue, his wife of more than 40 years – in 1982 Jefferson decided to branch out on his own.
Ambrose continued: "They bought Newstead Stables on the outskirts of Norton and Malcolm took out his first licence and built up the business through honesty, trust and hard work. I can say that he never knowingly hurt anybody in his long journey through life.
"He was always impeccably turned out in public, although rarely without his flat cap, but at home he wasn't quite so smart and often he looked a pretty sight in summer going round the yard in wellington boots, shorts and a vest.
"A hard worker, he was also a great family man, although his daughter Rachel wasn't always too pleased when he used to pick her up from school in the horsebox. He was so proud of Ruth stepping up to take over and you could almost hear that familiar voice booming from heaven on Thursday when Cyrus Darius was her first winner at Kelso."
The other speaker was Robert Wharton, the owner of fine chaser Double W's, who echoed the thoughts of everyone when he said: "No one had a bad word for Malcolm and he never had a bad word for anyone else.
"He was the first British trainer to win the festival bumper when Dato Star broke the Irish stranglehold on the race in 1995. He was a good businessman who invested and improved his yard over the years, and he was a good employer who looked after his staff, many of whom were with him for years.
"He also appreciated his owners and most of them weren't so much his clients as his friends. Mind you, he didn't stand any nonsense. On one occasion after having a winner, one owner, fuelled by celebratory champagne started telling him where he should run the horse next.
"In Malcolm's typical way he pointed out, 'I don't tell you how to milk your cows so don't you tell me how to train my horses'. He loved a party but sadly he died too early; he had so much more to offer, so much more to do."
Although essentially a trainer of jumpers Jefferson also had some useful Flat horses, notably Tancred Sand, who twice won Ayr's Bogside Cup.
He also nurtured the early career of dual champion Paul Hanagan who said: "He was a massive influence on my career. I started riding out for him in the school holidays when I was 13, I went to work for him after I left school, then went to the Racing College and joined him again afterwards. He and Sue were like family to me, I lived with them for six months."
Denis O'Regan rode many winners for him including Cape Tribulation who was part of the double-double with wins at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in 2012. He flew over from Ireland to attend, and also there was Harry Haynes, who rode Attaglance, the other half of that memorable double-double.
Haynes said: "I was with Malcolm for more than two seasons, and he was the best trainer I ever rode for."
Although a fine judge of a horse Jefferson was not always right, as Wharton recalled: "The first time Double W's ran was in a bumper at Market Rasen.
"We were in the paddock and having looked at the others Malcolm turned to me and said, 'I wouldn't swap him for anything else in the field'. We finished second to Altior!"