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Riverside Theatre and What A Friend Set to Contest Aon Chase


Newbury plays host to one of the weekend’s showpieces as a light field lines up for the latest iteration of the Aon Chase. It appears to be boiling down to a two-horse race if the current ante post prices are to be believed. Since punters are still waiting on final declarations, it may make sense to back either of the top two right now, but stay well off the remaining contingent – who are floating anywhere from 10/1 to 50/1.

Riverside Theatre comes into this one as a significant favourite and he’s been hitting at career-best figures for the bulk of 2010. His sole outing in 2011 was his best, from a ratings-standpoint, though he was second by a ways off to Gold Cup fancy Long Run.

Riverside has scored at Newbury in the past, over hurdles, and he’s been punching above his weight for a while now and should enjoy the run against a weaker field. He is currently odds-on at 10/11.

What A Friend looks set to complicate matters for the Nicky Henderson charge and Sir Alex Ferguson’s highly-rated contender hasn’t been seen since a fifth place finish to Imperial Commander in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. It will be interesting to see how he fires after the lay-off but Paul Nicholls doesn’t send out unfit horses. A solid run here will give punters plenty of confidence heading into the festival season.

Notably, What A Friend ran second to Denman at Newbury back in 2009 in the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase. If WAF shows any improvement over his past races Riverside Theatre will need to dig deep to get the result.

Fair Along is in the mix at 10/1 across the board and he’ll be looking to get things back on track after an underwhelming performance against Grand Crus in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle last week. If the race was being run in his comfort zone at Wetherby, you’d jump all over him at 10/1 but he’s not scored at Newbury since taking a novice chase back in 2006.

Noland comes back after being pulled up last time out – his second race since coming back off a two-year layoff. He’s up against it here but Nicholls charge could be a factor if he runs anywhere near his potential. He trades as high as 12/1.

Mahogany Blaze is a nice horse but just doesn’t win very often while Chief Dan George takes us into the 40/1 and he’s only had a single outing since last year’s Cheltenham Festival – a dead-last performance in the Betfair Chase.

Look for What A Friend to come on strong later in the race if Riverside Theatre chooses to chase the leaders, but connections may be adopting a wait and see approach as RT can run at the back as well. What A Friend over Riverside Theatre will likely be a popular forecast or exacta selection on the day.