Riverside Theatre landed the Ascot Chase in effortless style to complete a big-race double for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty.
His task was made much easier when his main market rival Pride Of Dulcote unseated his rider down the back straight, suffering a fatal injury as a result.
Pride Of Dulcote’s trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He was a very good horse and, for us, he was the next generation. You hate to see that sort of thing happening. The owner was here as well, but what can you say in circumstances like that?”
Deep Purple and Gauvain made the race a strong test and led early while Pride Of Dulcote and Riverside Theatre were settled further back. The seven runners closed up rounding the turn away from the stands and remained tight together as they faced the first fence down the back straight.
The leaders cleared the fence but Pride Of Dulcote did not, the eight-year-old got too close and unshipped Nick Scholfield. Geraghty then moved Riverside Theatre alongside Gauvain approaching the turn for home, after which the favourite stormed into the lead with a great jump at the penultimate fence. He headed towards the final fence fast, almost too fast, and he took a chance with a bold jump at the last, which he pulled off.
He was ten lengths clear of Gauvain at the line, leaving his trainer to wonder which Cheltenham race to run him in. Although Riverside Theatre does not hold a Gold Cup entry, Henderson said he was not ruling “anything out or anything in” after the race, which included missing the festival for Aintree. Riverside Theatre’s price for the Ryanair Chase, which Henderson had previously stated is the horse’s most likely target, was cut by bookmakers after the race. Paddy Power cut him to 7-1 (from 10), as did Stan James, while Boylesports clipped him to the same price from 8-1.
Henderson said:”I had to ask the owners before if they wanted to reconsider running because of the ground, but the conditions probably helped a little because it brought his stamina into play. He travelled and jumped well and paid a compliment to Long Run. If he didn’t win today we were thinking of missing Cheltenham for Aintree, but we wouldn’t rule anything out or in.”