Cheltenham Festival 2012 

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By Dylan Jenear ValueChecker

Riverside Theatre can Fly High in the Ryanair Chase

With January almost over, opportunities for Nicky Henderson to get a run into Riverside Theatre ahead of his intended Cheltenham Festival target, the Ryanair Chase, are diminishing. From an ante-post punters’ perspective the gelding may, therefore, be perceived as a risky bet for that Grade 1 contest.

Riverside Theatre
© Racehorse Photos

Riverside Theatre

However, from what can be gleaned from’s unique horse racing Wikis, the son of King’s Theatre is well worth risking in the ante-post market, with some bookmakers offering a tasty 10-1 about him landing the race formerly known as the Festival Trophy on March 15.

Indeed, if he does go to the Festival without a prep-run, that could actually work in his favour, since he has won on his seasonal reappearance in each of his four seasons in training. The fact that he is a very sound jumper, proven on a decent surface (more often than not, the going is ‘good’ at Prestbury Park in March) and is not short of stamina are all factors that augur well.

Stamina is a key issue in the Ryanair, with a strongly-run 2m 5f over the unique undulations of Cheltenham posing a stiff test. While Fondmort landed the inaugural running of this race under its current guise in 2006 and arguably didn’t stay any farther than the Ryanair trip, each of the five subsequent renewals have been won by horses that had previously won over 2¾m/3m.

Riverside Theatre saw 3m out pretty well when a gallant second to stable companion, and subsequent Gold Cup hero, Long Run in last season’s King George at Kempton, which underlines the fact that he stays very well. And if Henderson does get a run into him prior to the Festival, if he wins his reappearance, chances are his price will drop – probably halve – for the Ryanair. As such, he is well worth an ante-post wager at 10s.

Each of his three main market rivals at the time of writing have, in contrast, looked non-stayers when tried over 3m. That said, Noble Prince showed no signs of stopping when landing the 2½m Jewson Novices’ Chase at the 2011 Festival, and Rubi Light was third in last season’s running of the Ryanair, so the Irish-trained duo have to be respected. Conversely, Somersby has a fair bit to prove according to the Wikis, and is one to oppose in this contest.

Recommendation: Riverside Theatre @ 10/1 (Paddy Power, BetVictor, sportingbet, Ladbrokes)


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