Riverside Theatre Makes Impressive Return in Ascot Chase
1 Riverside Theatre 13/8F
The Nicky Henderson trained Riverside Theatre made the perfect return to action as he landed back-to-back runnings of the Betfair Ascot Chase.
The eight-year-old, part-owned by actor Jimmy Nesbitt, had not been seen since his triumph in this race 12 months ago, but after travelling strongly in the hands of Barry Geraghty, he put in a superb jump at the fifth-last and never looked likely to be caught from there.
In the end three lengths separated the 13-8 favourite from the gallant Medermit, whose rider Robert Thornton did well to stay in the plate following a bad mistake eight from home. Kauto Stone faded at the business end after pulling his way to the front going out on to the second circuit.
Geraghty said: "It was a top-class training performance by Nicky to bring him back after being off for 12 months. He did it the hard way. We were in front with five to jump and I thought he might struggle, but away he went. He sadly missed the Ryanair last year, so let's hope we can get there this year."
Henderson added: "We schooled him over five fences last Thursday and those were the first fences he had jumped since the last here a year ago. Barry was brave to go so early, but he was straight enough today.
"The plan last year was to run here and then the Ryanair. Sadly he fractured a pelvis before the Ryanair a year ago. I don't think we will be looking anywhere else (than the Ryanair) now."
Henderson also explained Riverside Theatre temporarily had a mysterious problem with his head earlier in the season, still to be diagnosed, that meant it had been hard to fit him with a bridle.
Nesbitt said: "I was filming The Hobbit in New Zealand this time last year and the only way I could catch it was by someone putting a phone on the TV. I've been away for a year and so has he, and I'm pleased he came through it.
"He jumped beautifully and Medermit put it to him and he went away, so we're overwhelmed. I'm filming Monroe in Leeds at the minute and I've got to go and do more Hobbit, but March 15 at Cheltenham is clearly pencilled in the diary."
Of Medermit, trainer Alan King said: "It was a great run and we'll have to think about either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup."
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