Riverside Theatre has been cut from 10/1 to 7/1 to win the Ryanair Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival after taking first place relatively comfortably in the Ascot Chase
The eight-year-old was making its first appearance since triumphing in last year’s edition, having missed last year’s Festival and the remainder of the season after being found to have a fractured pelvis a week before the event.
This was a very impressive return though for a horse that hadn’t even jumped a fence for close to a year until last week, and as it came against likely Ryanair Chase rivals Medermit (9/1) and Kauto Stone (16/1), he has to be judged a serious challenger.
Trainer Nicky Henderson was full of praise for his James Nesbitt-part-owned winner, who he remains confident is capable of performing to an even higher standard in the big race at Cheltenham.
He said: “He hasn’t had a racecourse gallop, but I was pretty sure he was ready, although he’ll improve. Barry Geraghty (the jockey) made a commitment quite a way out but he was fit enough to do it.
“This was the prep race (for the Ryanair Chase) and let’s hope he gets there this time. He’s not in anything else.” Despite this victory, it is Rubi Light who is rated the 5/1 favourite, closely followed by Noble Prince and Somersby at 6/1.
Completing a super Saturday for Henderson was 2010 Champion Hurdle king Binocular’s dominant win in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, finishing six lengths clear of second-placed Celestial Halo.
Binocular is the 9/2 second favourite to reclaim the title that he was forced to surrender in 2011 due to testing positive for a banned substance used to treat an allergy in the build-up to the Festival.
The horse who dethroned him, Hurricane Fly, is a 4/6 frontrunner to become only the third entrant in over two decades to prevail in successive Champion Hurdles.