Horses To Follow » Riverside Theatre

Riverside Theatre

Riverside Theatre put in a strange performance in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham last Tuesday. Held up out the back in the early stages by Barry Geraghty, his jumping lacked fluency, he never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm here like he had on his chasing debut at Newbury or on his only subsequent run at Kempton. Geraghty tried to get him into the race down the back straight but, as the race developed Riverside Theatre was left last as the pace increased at the top of the hill. It looked as if his rider was going to pull him up, he was 25 lengths off Sizing Europe and Mad Max who duelled at the head of the field. Geraghty allowed him come down the hill in his own time but, after a slow jump at the second last, he suddenly took hold of the bit and began to power around the home turn and up the hill, coming from an impossible position to finish fifth, just over eight lengths behind the winner Sizing Europe. This was one of those strange runs that probably left trainer Nicky Henderson scratching his head. The probability is that the horse didn’t act on the track. He has won three times at Kempton and once at Ascot. He also ran well to finish fourth behind El Dancer in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last April. He did finish of his race well, but he didn’t seem to be at home on Cheltenham’s undulations.

This was an extremely classy renewal of the Arkle with both Sizing Europe and Osana rated in the 160’s over hurdles, one an Irish Champion Hurdle winner, the other a Champion Hurdle runner-up, Captain Cee Bee is a previous Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner (he broke a blood vessel here) while Somersby was third in that event last year only beaten two lengths by this year’s Champion Hurdle favourite Go Native. Riverside Theatre was not that far behind these over hurdles, he was only beaten seven lengths by Hurricane Fly at Punchestown last year. He looks to already be a better chaser with two smooth successes at Newbury and Kempton. On his debut at Newbury he ran out a 28-length winner from Calsua Crystal who has since gone on and won twice. It may be that he is at his best on a flat track, which would make him interesting for Aintree. Given how he finished here, a step up to two and a half miles could bring about further improvement, and the Manifesto Chase, the new two-and-a-half-mile novices’ chase at Aintree, would be an interesting target. Also, he did run well over hurdles at Punchestown last year, so he would be interesting if he made the trip to Kildare instead of – or even as well as – to Liverpool. He is one in which you can easily retain faith, and he may be under-rated next time on the back of this run. Still just a six-year-old who has raced just 11 times in his life and just three times over fences, he is still an exciting prospect.

16th March 2010