Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Jimmy Nesbitt in Theatre drama

Jimmy Nesbitt at Huntingdon yesterday to watch Riverside Theatre

Ulster actor Jimmy Nesbitt could be in line for yet more jump racing drama after his horse Riverside Theatre sensationally battled back to win the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

Manchester United fan Nesbitt's horse, named after the Coleraine venue where the Ulsterman started his illustrious career, touched a whopping 70-1 in-running at one stage but fought back under Barry Geraghty to triumph.

And Nesbitt is refusing to rule out a crack at the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.

"I'm available," quipped Nesbitt last night on the topic of the great festive showdown.

"I thought he was dead and gone, but that's extraordinary. What a fantastic ride.

"We all said to each other – maybe we were camouflaging our emotions – that he doesn't owe us anything, but you still have that sickening knot inside."

Riverside Theatre won last year's Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival to give Nesbitt his greatest racing triumph.

Trainer Nicky Henderson acknowledged: "He does finish his races. We've seen it in the Ryanair, he gets himself out of posse and it might be because he genuinely wants further.

"Down the back it didn't look great, but Barry said at the second-last he knew he would win.

"It hasn't been easy, we had his breathing done, then he cut himself and that put him back.

"We've been trying everything under the sun with him, new rug, new girth, new everything!"

Henderson, looking at Kempton in a fortnight, said: "Two and a half around here is too sharp for him now, he wants three miles.

"I don't know about the King George, he's in there, and I'm not going to say we wouldn't do it, but we'll see. He's had a hard race, but how hard? He makes it look harder than it actually is.

"Later on, something like three miles at Newbury is what he'd want.

"Last year when we were getting into that uncomfortable bit in the middle of races nothing was happening afterwards but this time he picked up.

"It looks like something like cheekpieces might help him at some stage."

Geraghty reflected: "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.

"He closed up nicely on the leaders turning in and I thought at the second last I should maybe win.

"Two and a half (miles) round here is maybe on the sharp side for him."

Triple Grade One winner Riverside Theatre struggled last season and looked no better for three-quarters of this race.

But through the belligerence of Geraghty, he somehow remained in contention and triumphed from Champion Court and Captain Chris in a three-way shootout up the run-in.

The victory sets Riverside Theatre up for an exciting finale to the campaign.

So Nesbitt can look forward to at least one final act.

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