Theatre Man thrust into Festival spotlight

Richard Bandey’s flagbearer has a choice of two Cheltenham targets.

Theatre Man has Cheltenham Festival handicaps on his agenda, having picked up a silver medal at Prestbury Park on Trials day.

Richard Bandey’s eight-year-old won two of his four starts over hurdles last term and, although yet to open his account over fences, has not been too far out of the picture in all three novice chase starts.

Despite blundering four from home, he finished less than three lengths adrift of Paul Nicholls’ Turners hope Ginny’s Destiny at Cheltenham on Trials day, a performance that suggests he is more than worth his place at the Festival.

Theatre Man in action at Newbury
Theatre Man in action at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Connections now need to choose between the Trustatrader Plate over the same track and trip as that most recent outing, or step up to three miles for a shot at the Ultima Handicap Chase, with ground conditions nearer the time set to be a crucial determining factor in the decision.

“We were very pleased with the run at Cheltenham,” said Bandey.

“He finished very strongly, but we’ve always felt he is a strong-finishing two-and-a-half-mile horse rather than a definite three-miler.

“I think after his mistake four out (at Cheltenham), he just got swallowed up a bit and didn’t go through the gaps as fast as Harry (Bannister, jockey) would have liked, but he ran on strongly and we were delighted with the run.”

He went on: “All roads will lead back to Cheltenham now, all being well, with both the Plate and the Ultima being his options – and determined by the ground and shape of the races really.

“If the ground was soft, I think we would see a better horse – I think softer ground helps him rather than what we saw on Trials day, when it was good to soft. If it was similar ground or drier than it was on Trials day, then we might consider the three-mile race.

“It’s a lovely problem to have and Mr Syder and Mr Burke (owners), Harry and I will all put our heads together and work out a plan. We’re a small yard and he’s definitely the flagbearer for us this year, so we’re very lucky to have him.”

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