This year’s Ryanair Chase looks set to be one of the most competitive races on all four days of the Festival and there are a number of classy runners at the head of a wide open betting heat.
Riverside Theatre (5/1, Sportingbet
) currently heads the market and after his impressive success in the Betfair Ascot Chase he will be looking to make amends for his absence at last year’s meeting by landing the Grade One for trainer Nicky Henderson.
There is no doubt that he is a very smart horse on his day and it isn’t hard to see why he heads the betting for Thursday’s showpiece, but there remain a number of lingering doubts around the son of King’s Theatre.
Riverside Theatre has always looked like a flat track horse in his career and his fifth in the Arkle at Cheltenham two years ago seemed to highlight the fact that Prestbury Park wasn’t a place we would see him at his best. Aside from that, it must be noted that the favourite goes well fresh and it must be of some concern that he has only had three weeks since his last run at Ascot.
He is clearly a hugely talented chaser, but it makes far more sense to side with SOMERSBY
) who heads to Cheltenham with a big race victory under his previously fragile belt.
Such is the decline of Henrietta Knight’s fortunes at the Festival it is incredible to believe she saddled Best Mate to three Gold Cups, but in Somersby she has a serious chance of re-entering the winner’s enclosure at HQ.
Some trainers might have given up with the selection at the highest level after seven previous attempts in Grade One races, but in the Victor Chandler Chase Somersby rewarded Knight’s patience with a battling display to hold off the classy Finian’s Rainbow.
The argument over Somersby has never been one to do with his talent; he is a horse with a glittering CV of high class performances, but rather his will to battle to the line. At Ascot he was fitted with cheekpieces and they almost certainly made a difference as he finally notched his first Grade One victory.
Somersby’s attitude at the end of the race was exemplary and if he can build on that, he has the form to lower the colours of a number of highly regarded horses tackling the Ryanair. With a third in a Supreme Novice Hurdle and then a second in the Arkle Trophy already under his belt, he can put Knight back in the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham in 2012.
Nick Wilby’s selection – Somersby
– 6/1 (bet365