Riverside Theatre Battles to Win Ryanair Chase
1 Riverside Theatre 7/2 Fav
Riverside Theatre battled home to outdo last year’s winner Albertas Run and give his trainer Nicky Henderson a staggering sixth victory at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in the Ryanair Chase.
Henderson was quick to pay tribute to the ride given to the winner by his stable jockey Barry Geraghty, saying: “He never got into his rhythm and was never jumping but that was one of the greatest rides I’ve ever seen. And the horse is as tough as they get. He will try for you. He just probably needs a bit further. We’ll have to go up in trip.
“They are always going to go a good gallop in these races and it was just a bit out of his comfort zone. His jumping wasn’t standing up to the pace of the race.
“He was just having to fight his way round and it was uncomfortable to watch - I should think it was uncomfortable to ride.
The trainer added: “I was watching it with Jimmy [Nesbitt, owner] and we were all doom and gloom but you just can’t say enough about the ride Barry’s given him.
“He [the horse] might be good-looking but he’s very, very tough and will dig really deep. I always said this was his race but I think I was wrong, even though he’s won. I think he wants further.”
THEATRE TAKES CENTRE STAGE FOR NESBITT
Actor Jimmy Nesbitt admitted that he “was lost for words” after Riverside Theatre prevailed in one of the most exciting finishes at this year’s Festival when landing the Ryanair Chase.
“It’s just extraordinary,” said Nesbitt. “Nothing really prepared me for that, I’m rarely lost for words but I’m very emotional now. This is the greatest sport in the world and I think racing is sometimes a bit hard on itself, there are tens of thousands of people here today enjoying themselves.
“The horse was beaten at the last and then Barry asked him for a bit more. He was brave and he was strong.
“I was away in New Zealand when Cheltenham was on last year and I felt I was in a hinterland trying to watch it from out there. The horse then had an injury and it was a remarkable performance from Nicky (Henderson) to get him back to Ascot last time. I was lucky enough to be there and I was nervous beforehand but he won comfortably. Nicky is the loveliest man you could meet and did such an incredible job bringing the horse back.
“The training performance at Ascot was extraordinary, but to have him in that nick today and the courage the horse showed there was incredible. We knew he would stay and we knew he would jump but to have had that brilliant battle, I can not believe it.
“In a way I felt a bit of extra responsibility because of all the cameras pointing at me. I hope a few people put their money on him back home in Northern Ireland, it’s only a wee place and I hope they have a pint tonight to celebrate. I don’t get a lot of time to get to the races and have been filming Monroe in Leeds but they have been kind enough to give me a few days off.”
THEATRE AND GERAGHTY THE TOUGHS WHO GOT GOING
After some armchair rides earlier in the week, Barry Geraghty had to dig deep for victory in Riverside Theatre in the Ryanair Chase.
“All wins here are sweet,” said the Irishman, “but some you have to work harder for than others. This horse was beaten everywhere but the line. He hardly jumped a fence, he was never travelling. But every time I got into him and asked him for a bit more, he found it and gave it to me. He is just so game.
“It’s been an unbelievable training performance to bring him back to win after a year off [at Ascot in February] and then come again and win at this level. But having a trainer of Nicky Henderson’s skill behind you, you know that when you get stuck into a horse at the business end there’ll be something there, and so you can do it.
“All the way round, I thought I’d no chance, he was never travelling well enough to hold his position when others came around him. I threw him at the third last, I thought I’d still no chance. Second last, still no chance. Last, still no chance. But you never give up trying here, and nor did he.
“He’s a gorgeous, handsome horse, but today he’s showed he’s not just a pretty boy.”
PLEASURE IN DEFEAT FOR VANQUISHED TRAINERS
Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King and Philip Hobbs had reasons to be cheerful after horses they train finished in the money for the Ryanair Chase.
The O’Neill-trained Albertas Run, bidding for his fourth Festival success, was just half a length behind winner Riverside Theatre, and a mere half a length ahead of third-placed Medermit from King’s yard. It was five lengths back to Hobbs’s Captain Chris, but his effort was a huge improvement on his previous outing when pulled up in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham.
O’Neill said: “He’s run a cracker on ground that A P(McCoy) felt was a little dead for the horse. He didn’t fly the fence at the top of the hill although he was good at the last, and there were places where he didn’t get a length, but we’re thrilled to bits with him. I wish I had a yard like him. He’s great to train and he’s great for his owner, Trevor Hemmings. We’ll consider Aintree for him next.”
King said of Medermit: “In four Festivals he’s never let us down - he’s an unbelievable horse,” while his assistant, Noel Williams, said: “Once again he’s run his heart out. So close yet again and he deserves to win one. He always runs really well. Choc decided to stick to his guns on the run in when the first two went away from him [to their right] but that wouldn’t have made any difference to him because he tries his heart out whatever the situation. We’ll regroup and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries three miles soon. He was in the [Betfred] Gold Cup but that was probably a step up too far, but Alan and Choc are dying to try him over three miles.”
Hobbs said: “I’m very pleased with that after all the problems we’ve had, and while he again jumped to his right at least he’s got his act together and it’s something we can manage. There’s only one place to go now and that’s Punchestown because he does need to go right-handed. He stayed on well so three miles will be the choice.”
RYANAIR CHASE - Past Results
2011-WINNER-ALBERTAS RUN 10-11-10 Owner-Trevor Hemmings; Trainer-Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-AP McCoy; SP-6/1
2010-WINNER-ALBERTAS RUN 9-11-10 Owner-Trevor Hemmings; Trainer-Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-14/1
2009-WINNER-IMPERIAL COMMANDER 8-11-10 Owner-Our Friends In The North; Trainer-Nigel Twiston-Davies; Jockey-Paddy Brennan; SP-6/1
2008-WINNER-OUR VIC 10-11-10 Owner-David Johnson; Trainer-David Pipe; Jockey-Timmy Murphy; SP-4/1
2007-WINNER-TARANIS 6-11-00 Owner-Mrs A B Yeoman & C R Whittaker; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-9/2
2006-WINNER-FONDMORT 10-11-00 Owner-Bill Brown; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerlad; SP-100/30 Jt Fav
2005-WINNER-THISTHATANDTOTHER 9-11-03 Owner-Graham Roach; Trainer-Paul Nicholls; Jockey-Ruby Walsh;
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