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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.”