Barry Geraghty revels on the big stage

Barry Geraghty and Riverside Theatre clear a flight.  Picture: PA
Barry Geraghty and Riverside Theatre clear a flight. Picture: PA
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Riverside Theatre dug deep for an inspired Barry Geraghty to claim a thrilling renewal of the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon yesterday.

Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old – owned by actor James Nesbitt – completed a hat-trick of Grade One victories in the Ryanair Chase at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival but failed to rediscover that level of form in three starts last season.

Sent off a 9-4 favourite for this return to action, Riverside Theatre’s jumping was unconvincing in the early stages and Geraghty was getting lower in the saddle with a full circuit to run. The market leader looked in real trouble, with Geraghty having to resort to the whip, but his mount did respond to pressure.

Champion Court put up a fantastic display of jumping and still held a narrow lead at the last, but the galvanised Riverside Theatre came through on the far side, getting up by half a length. Captain Chris travelled powerfully for a long way on his seasonal debut and was far from disgraced in a close-up third.

Paddy Power cut Riverside Theatre to 14-1 from 25-1 for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, while he is a 10-1 shot to regain his Ryanair crown at Cheltenham in March.

Geraghty said: “Things weren’t looking brilliant down the back, but he closed back up on the leaders turning in and I didn’t have an awful lot of ground to make up. I thought from the back of the second-last we should nearly win. I knew he’d stay well.

“Two and half around here is on the sharp side for him. I would have liked to have travelled easier, I suppose. He struggled in the Ryanair the year he won it. He’s not a horse who travels through his races as well as he should. You’d imagine a stiffer track, or further, or both, is going to help him.

“The run should bring him on but he’s a horse who goes well fresh. He’s better undercooked than overcooked.”

At Cheltenham this afternoon Enda Bolger is represented by Keep On Track and Zest For Life in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. However, the County Limerick trainer is not overly confident of adding to his outstanding record of five wins out of eight runnings in the three-mile-seven-furlong. Leading his bid is Keep On Track, the mount of Nina Carberry. The horse was involved in a dramatic incident at Punchestown last time out when he slipped on a bend.

Sam Waley-Cohen rides Zest For Life, who was eighth over the course at the November meeting but Bolger said: “I would say Keep On Track was the better of the two. He has a nice weight [10st 1lb]. He was going well the last day in Punchestown. He just slipped up on the bend going into the straight. I’d be hoping for a place tomorrow. Zest For Life got very badly handicapped. He’s not up to carrying that weight [11st 1lb], even though Sam is going to claim 5lb.”

Martin Keighley believes Any Currency has a good chance of getting into the money. The Condicote trainer was pleased with the 10-year-old’s run over the course and distance four weeks ago when he took third place. Any Currency was not suited by the race conditions that day and Keighley feels his runner should go close as this race is a handicap. “He’s in fantastic form. We were delighted with his run last time,” he said.

Gordon Elliott’s top-weight Chicago Grey and Denis Hogan’s Save My Blushes are other Irish challengers in a field of 13 and there are three French raiders, Pasquini Rouge, Taiga Des Chambres and Quercy Du Manoir.