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Theatre targeting another winning Cheltenham performance

Michael Scudamore is hoping Kingswell Theatre can continue his fine record at Cheltenham in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday.

The 11-year-old caused an upset when winning at this discipline for a second time last month, making all the running to beat Beau Du Brizais despite being well out of the handicap.

This time, Kingswell Theatre has 11st 7lb to carry, but Scudamore reports his stable stalwart to be in fine form for his return.

“Kingswell Theatre seems to have come out of his latest race in fine fettle. He has been a stable star for the yard and we could not be happier with him,” he said.

“It is clearly a different race this time around. With Easysland and Potters Corner coming out of the race, he will have to carry an awful lot more weight, so we will see how he handles that.

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“Carrying a lot of weight round there is going to be tough, but I suppose the big two horses being out makes it a slightly easier race, although with the likes of Step Back and Neverushacon in there, it remains a really open race.”

Trainer Jessica Harrington
Trainer Jessica Harrington (Nigel French/PA)

Neverushacon has got round in two previous attempts on this track and loves the banks course at Punchestown, where he was successful on his latest start.

His trainer Jessica Harrington is praying the ground is not too testing for the nine-year-old.

“He was in great form at Punchestown. He did it very well. He’s jumped round there before. I hope the ground isn’t too heavy,” said the County Kildare handler.

“He’s always runs well there. I’m looking forward to running him, he’s in great form. He loves the ones at Punchestown. He’s won twice there – I just hope he can win at Cheltenham now.”

Step Back has come back to form this season
Step Back has come back to form this season (Julian Herbert/PA)

Step Back bids to complete a hat-trick for the season. Winner of the prestigious bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in the spring of 2018, Mark Bradstock’s 10-year-old has largely struggled to rediscover that form since.

However, an all-the-way victory in a three-runner race at Wincanton in October has seemingly turned his fortunes around, as he has since followed up in a veterans’ chase back at Sandown last month.

Sara Bradstock, assistant to her husband, is looking forward to seeing Step Back pursue a new discipline around Cheltenham’s cross-country circuit.

“Step Back seems to have got his mojo back,” she said.

“It’s always difficult for horses after they win a big race like that (bet365 Gold Cup), as they get a bit high in the handicap and you can’t ever give them an easy run.

“He’s very much a confidence fella, so the Wincanton race with three runners really helped him believe in himself again, and then the veterans’ chase at Sandown was ideal as for an Irish horse like him, who didn’t start running until he was five, he’s not really a veteran.

“He’s schooled really well round the cross-country course at Cheltenham since Sandown and it just gives him another route to go down.”

Kingswell Theatre to have entry at Cheltenham next month

Ground conditions will dictate whether Kingswell Theatre will return to Cheltenham next month following his surprise recent victory at Prestbury Park.

Cheltenham Festival winner Easysland was all the rage for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at the track’s November meeting, with dual Grand National hero and four-times Festival winner Tiger Roll rated his biggest threat.

However, Easysland could finish only fourth and Tiger Roll was pulled up, as Kingswell Theatre came home a clear-cut winner having made all, after which trainer Michael Scudamore was left considering whether the 11-year-old should go out in a blaze of glory.

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But the veteran is reported to have taken his recent exertions so well that talk of retirement is now on hold, with another outing around Cheltenham’s cross-country course pencilled in.

Scudamore: “He seems to have come back in such good form in himself, we’ll give him an entry in the December race at Cheltenham and see what the ground is like.

“If it came up soft I think we’d probably swerve it, but if it was good to soft or better I’d imagine he’ll take his chance, all being well. As I say, he seems in such good form in himself, it would seem a shame to stop while he’s still so happy and well.

“He’s only 11, so while he’s getting on, he’s not absolutely ancient!

“We’ll just take it day by day or race by race. He’ll tell us whether he’s still enjoying it or not, but he does seem to have come out of his last race better than ever, really – I couldn’t be happier with him.”

The Herefordshire handler appears to have his string in particularly good form at present, with six of his last eight runners either winning or being placed.

That number includes Do Your Job who was favourite to complete his hat-trick in a Listed novice hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, following decisive victories at Ffos Las and Ayr.

He ultimately had to make do with minor honours behind Llandinabo Lad on Merseyside, but Scudamore believes there is still a lot to look forward to with a horse who made just five career starts.

He said: “He ran perfectly well. I think the front two (Do Your Job and Flic Ou Voyou) probably got racing far enough out, but that’s taking nothing away from the winner, who looks a nice horse in his own right.

“With hindsight we might like to run the race again, but he’s proven he’s a nice horse and hopefully he’ll have other days.”

Tiger Roll team left deflated as Kingswell Theatre springs Cheltenham surprise

Connections of Tiger Roll were left fearing age may have caught up with the dual Grand National hero, who was pulled up in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase as Kingswell Theatre made all for a shock success.

The Cheltenham feature was billed as a rematch between Tiger Roll and Easysland – his conqueror at the Festival in March.

However, from an early stage Tiger Roll never looked happy, with Robbie Power, riding Gordon Elliott’s charge for the first time, niggling along on the first circuit and eventually pulling him up just after halfway.

Power said: “He was never travelling and he never had a cut at any of his fences.

“I pulled him up as he was in no sort of rhythm.”

Robbie Power and Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up
Robbie Power and Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Tiger Roll’s owners, Gigginstown House stud, said: “Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’d say it is age catching up with him a little bit and that might be the first sign of it.

“He didn’t seem to be enjoying it and he was never travelling that well. That was a very poor run and we will have to see how he is. I hope he is OK, that is the main thing. We will get him back and regroup and see what happens.

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“His rating will have to be readjusted, it’s crazy. It always has been crazy, but now it’s completely crazy. Of course you would (retire him if he runs like that again).

“That was a very bad run and of course you would consider it, but he seems happy and Gordon was happy to go over there. The fire still seems to be lit, but that was a very poor run. If he ran that bad again you would be definitely pulling up stumps.”

Easysland could not repeat his Cheltenham Festival performance
Easysland could not repeat his Cheltenham Festival performance (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Easysland travelled well enough until the final half a mile when he was unable to quicken and he crossed the line in fifth, as Michael Scudamore’s Kingswell Theatre (22-1) repeated his victory from three years ago.

Racing from 18lb out of the handicap, Kingswell Theatre stayed on strongly for Tom Scudamore to beat Beau Du Brizais by five lengths, with Welsh National winner Potters Corner running on encouragingly into third.

Jason Kiely, travelling head lad for Easysland’s trainer David Cottin, said: “He had a lot of weight on that ground first time out.

“He made a mistake halfway through the race and he just got tired in the end. He didn’t want to force him to do anything serious.

“He’ll be fine and we’ll look ahead to the next day.”

Of the winner, a proud Michael Scudamore said: “He just loves it round here. It has probably fallen apart. The top two haven’t turned up for whatever reason and his experience has probably counted. What a wonderful old horse, to have done it three years ago and to still come back and love the game as much as ever.

“Without being rude to the horse, he is so slow and the grade he has got to in those staying races they seem to go so fast early he can’t get a position and he just gives up, whereas round here he is given that bit of time and room.

“He is so economical with his jumping. It’s not about being flash around here. He never gets an inch higher than he has to and he knows how to get away with these hedges and things. We will have a chat with the owner as he is 11 now. He has had a wonderful day today and we will see what we want to do from here or if retirement is the best thing.

“We will see. In some ways it would lovely to finish on a note like this. We will get him back have a chat and see how he is. If he is fit and well, we could look at these sorts of races.”

Christian Williams was equally happy with Potters Corner.

The Welsh trainer said: “I’m very happy. He ran over hurdles first time last year and pulled up, then he disappointed again then he won so it probably takes a run or two (to get fit).

“I’d be surprised if he was fully fit there. We will do similar in December. I would have thought we will stick to this, but we will speak to the owners.

“I would have thought that would have suited better than the Welsh National. This (cross-country) could be the route we go down.

“I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t step forward from here to December and from December to March and that will be the main aim. It will be a better prep for the Grand National than the Welsh National.”

Tiger Roll pulled up at Cheltenham, as Kingswell Theatre shines

Kingswell Theatre made every yard of the running to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase in which Tiger Roll was pulled up.

The Cheltenham feature was billed as a rematch between dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll and Easysland – his conqueror at the Festival in March.

However, from an early stage Tiger Roll never looked happy, with Robbie Power, riding Gordon Elliott’s charge for the first time, niggling along on the first circuit and eventually pulling him up just after halfway.

Power said: “He was travelling and he never had a cut at any of his fences.

“I pulled him up as he was in no sort of rhythm.”

Robbie Power riding Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up
Robbie Power riding Tiger Roll clear the ‘Cheese Wedges’ before being pulled up (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Easysland travelled well enough until the final half a mile when he was unable to quicken and he crossed the line in fifth, as Michael Scudamore’s Kingswell Theatre (22-1) repeated his victory from three years ago.

Racing from 18lb out of the handicap, Kingswell Theatre stayed on strongly for Tom Scudamore to beat Beau Du Brizais by five lengths, with Welsh National winner Potters Corner running on encouragingly into third.

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Jason Kiely, travelling head lad for Easysland trainer David Cottin, said: “He had a lot of weight on that ground first time out.

“He made a mistake halfway through the race and he just got tired in the end. He didn’t want to force him to do anything serious.

“He’ll be fine and we’ll look ahead to the next day.”

Of the winner, a proud Michael Scudamore said: “He just loves it round here. It has probably fallen apart. The top two haven’t turned up for whatever reason and his experience has probably counted. What a wonderful old horse, to have done it three years ago and to still come back and love the game as much as ever.

“Without being rude to the horse, he is so slow and the grade he has got to in those staying races they seem to go so fast early he can’t get a position and he just gives up, whereas round here he is given that bit of time and room.

“He is so economical with his jumping. It’s not about being flash around here. He never gets an inch higher than he has to and he knows how to get away with these hedges and things. We will have a chat with the owner as he is 11 now. He has had a wonderful day today and we will see what we want to do from here or if retirement is the best thing.

“We will see. In some ways it would lovely to finish on a note like this. We will get him back have a chat and see how he is. If he is fit and well, we could look at these sorts of races.”

Christian Williams said of Potters Corner: “I’m very happy. He ran over hurdles first time last year and pulled up, then he disappointed again then he won so it probably takes a run or two (to get fit).

“I’d be surprised if he was fully fit there. We will do similar in December. I would have thought we will stick to this, but we will speak to the owners.

“I would have thought that would have suited better than the Welsh National. This (cross-country) could be the route we go down.

“I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t step forward from here to December and from December to March and that will be the main aim. It will be a better prep for the Grand National than the Welsh National.”

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Tiger Roll’s owners, Gigginstown House stud, said: “Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’d say it is age catching up with him a little bit and that might be the first sign of it.

“He didn’t seem to be enjoying it and he was never travelling that well. That was a very poor run and we will have to see how he is. I hope he is OK, that is the main thing. We will get him back and regroup and see what happens.

“His rating will have to be readjusted, it’s crazy. It always has been crazy, but now it’s completely crazy. Of course you would (retire him if he runs like that again).

“That was a very bad run and of course you would consider it, but he seems happy and Gordon was happy to go over there. The fire still seems to be lit, but that was a very poor run. If he ran that bad again you would be definitely pulling up stumps.”