Jockey Barry Geraghty feels the application of headgear on Riverside Theatre will have a positive impact in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton this afternoon.
Riverside Theatre, trained by NIcky Henderson and part-owned by actor Jimmy Nesbitt, returned to something like his old form when winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on his seasonal reappearance.
That performance was very reminiscent of his win in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival of 2012 in that he did not look a likely victor until the final half-furlong.
The nine-year-old finished second to stablemate Long Run in the rearranged 2010 renewal but was only sixth behind the same horse last season.
Connections feel now is the time to reach for a few aids to help him travel better in his races and while Geraghty has full respect for Cue Card, it is Al Ferof who he feels could be the one to watch.
“The King George VI Chase is a real jumping classic and I’ve been on the winner twice with Kicking King in 2004 and 2005,” said Geraghty.
“I’m back this year for another crack on Riverside Theatre, who was 12 lengths second to Long Run two years back, and once again I can see him doing very well in what is an extremely open and highly-competitive race where it’s pretty hard to leave any of the nine runners out of calculations.
“The biggest plus for my horse could well be the application of a hood and blinkers. When I rode him to win at Huntingdon last time it was pretty hard work over a trip that’s now on the short side, but he showed plenty of heart to win.
“It was decided afterwards that he was worth a try in blinkers and when I schooled him in them last week, he was electric and felt very sharp and focused.
“Huntingdon would have bought him on and he has no issues with ground. With the blinkers sharpening him up, I honestly believe that we can figure in this.
“I have plenty of respect for Cue Card on his Haydock win when he had Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti and Long Run behind.
“But I am also a big Al Ferof fan. To my eye he is a potential Gold Cup horse and he’ll love this trip, which he’ll be getting for the first time. I think that the Paddy Power he won in 2012 was as good a running of the race as there’s been in recent years.
“Of those that ran at Haydock, I’d expect plenty of improvement from Silviniaco Conti and likewise Dynaste, who were both having their first outings whereas Cue Card and Long Run had been out before. The gap is definitely going to shrink.
“If the visor first time sparks Long Run then he becomes a player, too, given his form in this race reads 121.”
Champion jockey Tony McCoy is without a ride in the race but he is a big fan of Cue Card, although he feels the horse may be better going left-handed.
He explained: “I’m firmly in the Cue Card camp, the only thing that would put me off him, is that I do think he’s a slightly better horse going left-handed, but his performance at Haydock was top class.”
McCoy, meanwhile, feels that My Tent Or Yours is already on a par with last year’s williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan as he looks for a fourth successive win in the Kempton Grade One, which goes off 35 minutes before the King George.
McCoy teams up with Nicky Henderson again after the pair struck with the ill-fated Darlan last December, following on from two successes for the recently-retired Binocular, who also claimed the 2010 Champion Hurdle.
While McCoy feels it would be premature to class My Tent Or Yours in the same bracket as Binocular at this stage, he has high hopes for the six-year-old.
McCoy said: “I’ve been lucky enough to win a few Christmas Hurdles which is always great and it always brightens up my Christmas, that’s for sure, so I’d like another go at winning it this year.
“I’m not sure My Tent Or Yours is on a par with Binocular yet but he’s probably on a par with Darlan.”
Fellow Champion Hurdle hopeful The New One also lines up at Kempton and McCoy admits the race presents a stiff task.
“The New One looks very exciting, he was a winner last time out in the International and obviously won the Neptune at the Festival and he’s near enough favourite for the Champion Hurdle,” he said.
“This is probably a better race than in the past and The New One will be hard to beat, but hopefully My Tent Or Yours will put it up to him and hopefully beat him. It looks between the two of them.
“Hopefully the flatter track might help My Tent Or Yours more than The New One.
“I don’t think soft ground would harm My Tent Or Yours any more than it would The New One.”
The sponsors make Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One their even-money favourite, ahead of My Tent Or Yours.