Riverside Theatre primed for return to big time
Betfred Peterborough Chase (Grade 2) | 2m4½f, 4yo+ | RUK
NICKY HENDERSON is full of hope Riverside Theatre, a gallant winner of the 2012 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, can get his career back on track in a cracking renewal of Huntingdon's annual showpiece.
A major disappointment in four subsequent starts, including when beating only one home in Kempton's King George VI Chase almost 12 months ago, Riverside Theatre returns after a full MOT with the conditions of today's race - in which he receives 10lb from Captain Chris despite being rated just 2lb inferior to the topweight on official ratings - massively in his favour.
Henderson said: "All has gone well and I am hoping we will see the old Riverside Theatre at Huntingdon - it's been missing for a bit. His work has been good, his schooling has been good, and we've tweaked a few places here and there. He's in good form."
Captain Chris, who finished four places in front of Riverside Theatre when runner-up to Long Run at Kempton last Boxing Day, is also making his seasonal reappearance.
Philip Hobbs said: "He's very well and a right-handed course is just what he needs. He is wrong at the weights with Riverside Theatre, but hopefully has a good chance."
Paul Nicholls believes the Peterborough Chase is the perfect start point to launch Ghizao's campaign. "He goes well fresh and is in good shape," the trainer said. "Two and a half miles on a flat track suits and this appears ideal for him. Hopefully he will run a big race."
Module, the youngest in the field, ran a cracker to run Somersby to a photo-finish - with Cue Card third - at Exeter last month, and trainer Tom George believes there is even better to come from his six-year-old.
"This has been his target since he ran in the Haldon Gold Cup," he said. "He has got to up his game, but he is learning and growing up all the time and there is no reason why he cannot do so."
Steve Gollings, trainer of Conquisto, acknowledges his gelding has plenty to find on form, but both track and ground will be in his favour. "No horse deserves to win big races more than him," Gollings said. "He wears his heart on his sleeve and should run well."
Champion Court, conqueror of Menorah in a Cheltenham Grade 2 in April, performed below expectations on his seasonal debut last month when seventh to Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Sent off a well-backed 6-1 favourite that day, Champion Court weakened before the penultimate fence and trainer Martin Keighley is hoping for a more polished performance this time.
"All seems good after his disappointment at Cheltenham," he said. "The track at Huntingdon will suit him and he will like the ground.
"We had him tested after the race and the results came back fine, but he seemed in some sort of discomfort after the race. Maybe he had a slight stomach ache or maybe he just had an off-day.
"Hopefully he can bounce back to top form and run a big race."
Alasi, who floored the odds-on Champion Court in a Kempton graduation chase in February, nonetheless has a mountain to climb on the figures, but with only seven runners Paul Webber is eyeing some black type for his mare.
"She is up against it at the weights and on ratings," Webber admitted. "However, both track and trip will be ideal and we're hoping for an enormous amount of luck to snatch a bit of black type for her future stud career."
Huntingdon good, good to soft in places
Newcastle good, good to soft in places
Taunton good, good to firm in places
Tramore good, yielding in places
Today's key pointers
Since winning it with Le Roi Miguel in 2004, Paul Nicholls is 0/7 in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon (2.00), with five of his runners beaten at 9-2 or shorter. He runs Ghizao today.
Nicholls has won two of the previous three runnings of the novice hurdle (2.10) at Taunton with Valentine Vic (2009) and Buck's Bond (2012); his other runner, Rolling Aces (2011), finished a close second to Imperial Circus. He fields Aerial today.
Hayley Turner has a decent record at Kempton, especially for James Fanshawe, but she is 0/45 when riding for Conor Dore at the Sunbury venue, so backers of Clockmaker, who runs in the 6.50, should take note.