Theatre’s worry for big stage

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TRAINER Nicky Henderson has spelled out his fears that heavy ground could jeopaerdise the prospects of his King George VI Chase candidate Riverside Theatre at Kempton Park on Saturday.

TRAINER Nicky Henderson has spelled out his fears that heavy ground could jeopaerdise the prospects of his King George VI Chase candidate Riverside Theatre at Kempton Park on Saturday.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford has issued a wet going bulletin, with rain forecast every day leading up to the weekend at the Sunbury venue.

Riverside Theatre did win a novice hurdle at Kempton on soft ground but all his best form has come on a sounder surface.

In his favour, the seven-year-old is unbeaten in four races at Kempton, including his only start to date so far this term.

The Seven Barrows handler said: “I’m worried the ground has gone against Riverside Theatre. He’s in great form and on good ground I would be really keen.”

Henderson is less worried about the state of the going for his other runner, Long Run.

The Feltham Chase winner handled very soft ground in his early career in France but the worry with him is keeping him from going over the top as he was trained to peak for Boxing Day.

Henderson added: “He has been around Auteuil enough times, so he shouldn’t have a problem with soft ground. Getting him to the boil is one thing, but keeping him simmering is another.”

One horse not turning up at Kempton is Barizan, who misses the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle. The trainer is aiming last season’s Grade One Punchestown winner at the William Hill Welsh Champion hurdle at Ffos Las on February 5.

Williams said: “He’s just taken time this year. He’s had a few runs and hasn’t shown the same zest as last spring. His form at that time was far ahead of what it was in the autumn. I might run him in the Welsh Champion Hurdle. You won’t get many runners in there and it will be an ideal stepping stone.”

Another absentee from the Christmas Hurdle is Sanctuaire after trainer Paul Nicholls scratched last season’s Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle winner.

Alan King will let West End Rocker take his chance in the totesport.com Classic Chase despite slight concerns about very testing ground at Warwick on Saturday.

The last two renewals of the race have been lost due to adverse weather, while King won the last running in 2008 with D’Argent. His West End Rocker has been installed as the 8-1 joint-favourite with Richard’s Sundance by the sponsors.

Having been off the track for 12 months, West End Rocker returned with a good win at Newbury, and having been well fancied for the Scottish Grand National in 2009 the going rather than stamina is his worry.

“I think this looks the ideal race for him,” King said. “We’ve given him a bit of time since Newbury. He didn’t fire last season – he was off with a leg. I would be slightly concerned if Warwick came up bottomless. I’ve always thought he’s slightly better on decent ground.”

The race forms part of the totesport Road To Aintree which would see the winner qualify for a £250,000 bonus should the horse go on to win the totesport.com Grand National Trial run at Haydock in February and the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree.