Henderson hails Theatre's action

Trainer full of praise for novice's jumping as his odds are cut for the Arkle Trophy

When hindsight tells you exactly the same as first impressions, seeing really can be believing. It is all too easy, of course, to get carried away with the sort of performance that won both the novice chases at Newbury yesterday. With experience, you learn to restore perspectives – to remind yourself that championship races will ask very different questions from those answered so extravagantly, at the expense of just three and five rivals respectively, by Michel Le Bon and Riverside Theatre. But then you remember Denman.

Three years ago, Denman came to this meeting and looked a Gold Cup horse in the making as he outclassed just three others. Sure enough, after returning here the following year to win the Hennessy itself, he proceeded to Cheltenham and won the Gold Cup.

Clearly, things seldom work out quite like that. This afternoon, however, Punchestowns will seek to borrow the same air of destiny when he lines up for the equivalent race, likewise against just three rivals. And, in fairness, you could not be at all certain where Michel Le Bon will discover the limits of his potential.

Paul Nicholls knows that some day he will have neither Denman – who must give weight to 20 others in his bid for a second Hennessy tomorrow – nor Kauto Star. And that is where an exquisite tension enters the early career of a horse like Michel Le Bon.

Having proved his mastery with the type, Nicholls is not going to ask this one to run before he can walk. Michel Le Bon can certainly gallop, as he showed in freewheeling clear of Pettifour – who eventually discarded his rider two out, exhausted by his pursuit – in the GPG Novice Chase over three miles. But despite being so obviously built for fences that Nicholls confined him to three starts over hurdles last season, he cannot yet be said to jump.

Not so much because he hit a couple of fences – after all, he also made several pretty flamboyant leaps under Tony McCoy – but sooner because of the caveats offered by Nicholls himself. "He has obviously got a huge engine," the champion trainer said. "But he's just been very green, schooling. I had him ready to run at Wincanton a fortnight ago, but he wasn't jumping well enough. He has schooled every day this week. Tony was brilliant out there, and will have taught him a lot. Today could be the making of his career. He's going to be some horse one day, but I'm not going to be aiming too high until I can get some more experience into him. He just wants nurturing, and it might be that we don't see the best of him until next season."

Over barely two miles, in contrast, Riverside Theatre looked a natural, jumping briskly throughout under Barry Geraghty and careering 28 lengths clear in the colours of Jimmy Nesbitt and his partners. The actor's involvement will certainly enliven this horse's journey over fences, potentially all the way to the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham – for which Totesport is already quoting him at just 12-1.

His trainer, Nicky Henderson, felt that Riverside Theatre had relished the strong gallop. "They didn't mess about out there and that's the way he would want it," he said. "He was very good in the jumping department – he was good long, he got height, and when he reached for the cross fence, he was away and out from it, and gone."

Henderson would probably settle for something half as good from Punchestowns, a top-class hurdler who has long looked a chasing type. His good form was later reiterated by Oscar Whiskey, who landed the odds in the bumper, and today the yard also introduces a smart graduate from that sphere, Bellvano, in the maiden hurdle.

The card, meanwhile, opens with a good opportunity for Mille Chief to confirm the impression he made on his British debut at Market Rasen, still cantering when brought down two out. Alan King has a fine record with juveniles and this one, imported from the same French stable as Walkon last year, is already favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh will be at Newbury today for Nicholls, having yesterday turned down Michel Le Bon in order to ride for his other main patron, Willie Mullins, over at Thurles. Nor did the novice he ended up riding instead offer him any kind of reward, Apt Approach throwing away victory when demanding a rodeo recovery over the last; Equus Maximus, meanwhile, disappointed behind Coolcashin, who confirmed himself the latest tough nut in the care of the Bowe family. It was only 11 days since he had a very hard race at Punchestown, but he responded gamely to get up by a neck and is clearly hewn from the same rock as Limestone Lad and Solerina.

Turf account: Chris McGrath

Nap

Capone (3.05 Lingfield) Has made quick progress for his new stable, much improved when foiled only by a thriving rival at Kempton last time.

Next best

Bob's Dream (1.30 Newbury) Faces a potential banana skin here in Rivaliste. However, Bob's Dream pulled clear of a well treated rival at Kelso last time.

One to watch

Brimham Boy (M Keighley) failed to get home in the testing ground at Uttoxeter yesterday, but left no doubt that he can prove better than his rating.

Where the money's going

British raiders Presvis (3-1) and Youmzain (7-2) were yesterday installed as Coral's second favourites for the Hong Kong Cup and Vase respectively at Sha Tin next month.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
science
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executives

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of Europe's leading prov...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Sales Manager - East Region - OTE £45,000

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor