Theatre may miss out on King George
RIVERSIDE THEATRE is as short as 14/1 for the King George on St Stephen's Day after a hard-fought victory in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, but the former Ryanair Chase winner, part-owned by actor Jimmy Nesbitt, is not certain to run.
Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old, winning first time out for the sixth time in seven seasons, was the first off the bridle and being hard-ridden down on the last circuit.
But Barry Geraghty managed to keep him in touch and he stayed on well from the last fence to beat the game front-running Champion Court and Captain Chris by half-a-length and a neck.
"Barry said he knew he'd win at the second-last and we know he finishes, but gets out of position easily. We've seen it all before and the problem last year was that once he got to that uncomfortable bit in the middle, nothing happened," Henderson said.
"He's still in the King George, but the fact that we went straight there last year suggests it might be a bit quick. Jimmy says he has the day off and we're not going to rule it out yet, even though it might not be the most obvious thing to do."
Henderson's nine-year-old completed a hat-trick of Grade One victories in the Ryanair Chase at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival, but failed to rediscover that level of form in three starts last season.
Sent off a 9/4 favourite, Riverside Theatre's jumping was unconvincing in the early stages and Geraghty was getting lower in the saddle with a full circuit to run.
The market leader looked in real trouble before leading the back straight, with Geraghty having to resort to the whip, but his mount did respond to pressure.
Champion Court put up a fantastic display of jumping from the front and still held a narrow lead at the last, but the galvanised Riverside Theatre came through to claim him on the far side, getting up by half a length.
Captain Chris travelled powerfully for a long way on his seasonal debut and was far from disgraced in finishing a close-up third.
Geraghty said: "Things weren't looking brilliant down the back, but he closed back up on the leaders turning in and I didn't have an awful lot of ground to make up. I thought from the back of the second-last we should nearly win, the way he was running on. I knew he'd stay well.
"You'd imagine a stiffer track, or further, or both, is going to help him. The run should bring him on, but he's a horse who goes well fresh. He's better undercooked than overcooked."
Geraghty also partnered Une Artiste to victory in the Novices' Chase.
Sent off the 8/15 favourite, Une Artiste was accompanied throughout by market rival Baby Shine and required some intervention from Geraghty before taking command in the home straight to score by two and a half lengths. (© Daily Telegraph, London)