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Barry Geraghty thinks Riverside Theatre can take centre stage

Riverside Theatre

Barry Geraghty would be the first to admit that Riverside Theatre has a fair bit on his plate if he is to win the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

However, Nicky Henderson’s stable jockey, who won the race twice on Kicking King, was more than happy at the prospect of having enough on his own plate for once.

“My first Christmas present arrived early with the news that I had no light weights in the handicaps at Kempton on Boxing Day so that’s me clear for Christmas dinner,” he said on attheraces.com. “And the parcel of rides that Nicky Henderson has given me on the 26th would be more than enough to keep any jockey happy.”

Riverside Theatre finished third to stable companion Long Run in the King George two seasons ago on what was just his sixth start over fences since when he has proven his worth with three Grade One victories including Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

“I’m very keen on my horse for several reasons but the main one is that I’m sure he is a really good horse fresh – and that’s what he’ll be on his seasonal debut,” Geraghty said. “Also, he has very good form on soft ground, is extremely tough and I’m sure he stays this trip well now.

“He was second to Long Run in this two seasons ago and he’s a better horse now – a view that is shared by the handicapper.

“Take the stamina factor first, the way he stayed up the hill at Cheltenham to win the Ryanair Chase in March over two miles, five furlongs you wouldn’t be too concerned about h three furlongs around a level track like Kempton.

“As for the freshness factor, you’d have to say that he travelled sweeter still on his seasonal debut in the Betfair Ascot Chase over two miles, six furlongs when he won easily by three lengths - a race he won the previous year on soft ground, which demonstrates the surface on Wednesday should not be an issue.

“I haven’t ridden him in any work so far this season but I’ve been getting great reports and I popped him over some fences in a school last Friday morning and he went really well.

“Long Run is still the one we all have to beat and he’s been catching my eye when I’ve seen him schooling. He’s also been working well and I was involved in one piece with him when I rode Hadrian’s Approach on Saturday morning and both went well. There’s no doubt that Long Run is in good shape and as a previous winner must be given respect.

“I have regard for The Giant Bolster, who finished four and a half lengths behind him when they were second and third at Haydock last time out. I’d be pretty sure that one will be fitter this time.

“And don’t forget Kauto – Stone not Star – who handled soft ground well when he won at Down Royal in early November and looked very happy going three miles for the first time.

“This is set up to be a really fine race for Christmas. I’ve won it twice before with Kicking King and I wouldn’t be swopping my ride going for the treble.”

Paul Wheeler

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