Riverside Theatre (left) and Captain Chris (right) were separated by three-quarters of a length in the Peterborough Chase at HuntingdonPICTURE: Getty Images
Theatre clash with Chris highlight of quality day
BRITAIN is braced for an overnight storm but the two main meetings at Haydock and Ascot are expected to survive the weather, with the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase the undoubted highlight of a quality weekend of racing.
The market is headed by the Philip Hobbs-trained Captain Chris, second to Cue Card in this race last year, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Riverside Theatre, the winner in both 2011 and 2012, next at 9-2.
The two have met four times in recent years, with the score standing two apiece. Riverside Theatre came out on top in the 2012 Ryanair Chase and the 2013 Peterborough Chase, while Captain Chris finished ahead when fourth behind Sir Des Champs in the 2013 Punchestown Gold Cup and when second to Long Run in the 2012 King George.
When factoring in the 10lb Captain Chris gave Riverside Theatre for a three-quarters-of-a-length beating in the Peterborough Chase then he has come off best at the weights on three of their four meetings, leaving his rider Richard Johnson confident Captain Chris is the one to beat.
He said: "He has won on the ground at Ascot before and if all goes well I think he'll be hard to beat. His two runs this season have been good and he seemed to win very well at Kempton.
"I don't think there would have been a lot between him and Cue Card last year but for the mistake, we would have finished upsides Cue Card, which is pretty solid form.
"He jumps slightly right-handed, which means this race and Punchestown give him his best chance of winning a Grade 1."
Rolling Aces and Cloudy Too come next at 7-1 and 9-1, while Medermit, who chased home Riverside Theatre in 2012, is a 12-1 shot on his first start in 674 days.
Former festival winner Hunt Ball, who made his last four starts in America for Jonathan Sheppard, adds a second string to Nicky Henderson's bow, while his trainers' title rival Paul Nicholls is also double-handed with Paul Carberry coming over from Ireland just to ride Kauto Stone in a race with more storylines than runners.
David Pipe: runs two classy novicesPICTURE: Mark Cranham
Ascot's card also features the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase, a key trial for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month, with David Pipe's exciting Gevrey Chambertin making his chasing debut in Grade 2 company and the trainer's £450,000 purchase Un Temps Pour Tout among five declared for the 2m3½f Neptune Investment Management-sponsored Novices' Hurdle.
World Hurdle contender Celestial Halo contests the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock, where the main race is a trial for another of the big spring festivals with Our Father, Hawkes Point and Merry King contesting favouritism at 7-1 for the Grade 3 Betfred Grand National Trial over 3m5f.
In Ireland Turban and Bog Warrior contest favouritism for the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park, which will need to survive an 8am inspection, while the unbeaten Un De Sceaux could complete a Grade 2 double for his and Turban's owner Edward O'Connell in the Red Mills Hurdle.
The day's other Graded race, the Kingwell Hurdle, is at Wincanton, which faces a 7.30am inspection. It features Champion Hurdle hopes Melodic Rendezvous and Grumeti and World Hurdle contender Zarkandar.
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