Theatre Queen out to rule at Festival

Theatre Queen is set to turn out quickly for next week’s National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following her remarkable effort in defeat at Doncaster on Saturday.

The eight-year-old refused to jump off at Taunton earlier in the campaign and threatened to do the same in last weekend’s fiercely competitive Grimthorpe Chase.

She did eventually consent to race, however, and despite losing many lengths at the start, she finished powerfully up the Town Moor straight to finish a highly creditable fourth.

It would be easy to conclude the mare has her own ideas about the game but fledgling trainer Mark Wall, who also rides her, insists she has plenty of appetite for racing.

He said: “She seems fine and was barging her way out of her stable on Sunday morning, so I think there’s a reasonable chance she’ll run in the National Hunt Chase.

“If she’d won the other day and picked up a 5lb penalty, we’d have been doing cartwheels and probably gone for the Kim Muir, but I don’t think she’d get in now and our hand has been forced to a certain degree.

“Some people think she could have won the other day, others don’t. I think she would definitely have given the winner (Wayward Prince) a run for his money.

“It’s always a bit of an awkward one with her as people call her all sorts of names and I end up defending her, but she really isn’t the moody mare that a lot of people think she is.

“It’s definitely not that she doesn’t want to race. Once she’s in a race, she sticks her head down and gets on with it. It’s just a trait of the family that, for whatever reason, they suffer a bit of stage fright when they get to the start.

“Her dam (Dust Gale) was similar and a horse called Anoch, who was the brother of her grand-dam, won 18 races in Ireland and he also got left at the start on a few occasions.”

Wall has plenty of previous experience riding at the Festival, having taken part in amateur rider events on “eight or nine” occasions, most notably steering Divine Intavention to finish second in the 2013 Foxhunter Chase.

Having been granted a licence in December, Theatre Queen will become his first Festival runner as a trainer and he feels she has what it takes to make her presence felt if she can overcome her issues at the start.

“The owners have been very patient, a lot more patient than most owners would be,” said Wall. “The family takes time to develop and when I had her for the first year as a five-year-old she suffered from sore shins.

“She ran plenty in point-to-points as a six-year-old and ran in hunter chases last year as a seven-year-old.I have actually tried to get some top jockeys to ride her, but they’ve sat on her at home and it just hasn’t worked out.”

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