When Mick Fitzgerald was forced to retire, Nicky Henderson must have wondered if he would ever find a jockey with the style, the swagger and the ability to replace him.
He looked to Barry Geraghty and I doubt he has ever regretted it for more than a passing moment.
This week has been all about the deadly duo and in driving Riverside Theatre to an unbelievable success in the Ryanair Chase, Geraghty proved he is one of the all-time greats.
Riverside Theatre’s jumping was sloppy at times and he did tend to be on and off the bridle. But he never flinched and, in Geraghty, had a man helping him who is simply inspired right now.
Geraghty cajoled and drove and then cajoled and drove some more. Somehow, he worked the winner into contention, after Tony McCoy had committed Albertas Run a long way out.
Racing to the final fence, Medermit joined in for good measure and there followed a rousing battle.
The stands erupted, as Geraghty refused to accept defeat and gradually powered Riverside Theatre to half a length and the same victory over Albertas Run and Medermit.
For Henderson, it was an astonishing sixth win of the week and moved Geraghty’s total to five, all of them Grade Ones. The display by Geraghty wasn’t lost on Henderson. He said: “He (Riverside Theatre) never got into a rhythm and was never jumping, but that was one of the greatest rides I have ever seen. The horse is as tough as they get, he will try for you. He probably needs a bit further, we’ll have to go up in trip.
“They always go a good gallop in this race and he was just out of his comfort zone. His jumping wasn’t standing up to the pace of the race.
“It was uncomfortable to watch, I would think it was uncomfortable to ride. I was watching with Jimmy (Nesbitt, owner) and we were all doom and gloom, I just cannot say enough about the ride Barry’s given him.’ Geraghty took it all in his stride. Said Geraghty: “All wins here are sweet, but some you have to work harder for than others.
“He was beaten everywhere, but the line. He hardly jumped a fence and was never travelling. But every time I got into him and asked for a bit more he found it and gave it to me. He is just so game.
“All the way round I thought I’d no chance. I threw him at the third last and thought I still had no chance.
“Second last, no chance, last, no chance, but you never give up trying here, nor did he. He’s a gorgeous, handsome horse, but today showed he’s not just a pretty boy.”
Co-owner, actor Nesbitt admitted he “was lost for words”. “It is just extraordinary. Nothing really prepared me for that, I’m very rarely lost for words, but am very emotional now.
“This is the greatest sport in the world and I think racing is sometimes a bit hard on itself. The horse was beaten at the last and then Barry asked for a bit more.
“Nicky is the loveliest man you could meet and has done such an incredible job.” Jonjo O’Neilll’s Albertas Run, trying to win at the festival for a fourth time, ran his heart out. “He’s run a cracker on ground that AP felt was a little dead for him’, related O’Neill. “I am thrilled to bits with the horse, I wish I had yard like him. We will now consider Aintree next.’
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