Native River Once Again Proves How Tough He Is
👏 Great ride from young @JJONeillJnr, well done.
🏆 Gold Cup winner? pic.twitter.com/s6hpLzuTmI
— 🐎 Dave Lowe 🐎 (@davelowe3) February 8, 2020
Connections of Native River are targeting the two biggest races on the National Hunt calendar at the back end of the season – the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and Randox Health Grand National.
Colin Tizzard’s runner was successful on Saturday at Newbury in the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase. He produced an impressive front-running performance to score by just under three lengths ahead of Secret Investor and Might Bite respectively.
The former Gold Cup winner’s latest victory was his second straight win of the campaign. He also prevailed in the Grade Two Virgin Bet Boosts Many Clouds Chase at Aintree back in December.
His recent form has put Native River in with a good chance of becoming only the second horse in history to regain their crown in the Gold Cup at the Festival. He is 12/1* for the Blue Riband event of the meeting.
The gelding could then feature in the Grand National at Aintree for the first time in his career. Stamina is one of Native River’s strongest assets and so the 4m2½f distance at the Merseyside track could be perfect for the 10-year-old.
2018 Gold Cup success
Native River’s victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup was one of the most impressive of the last couple of decades. Alongside Might Bite, the pair set a blistering pace that their rivals just could not match.
At the back end of the 3m2½f, up the hill at Prestbury Park, Tizzard’s chaser stayed on strongly to power home for the biggest victory of his career.
He was unable to retain his crown 12 months later and had to settle for fourth place of the 16 runners in a race won by Al Boum Photo.
This will be Native River’s fourth appearance in the Gold Cup. He was also third in the 2017 renewal of the prestigious contest. This year’s field includes some new challengers to the experienced runner, including Santini, Delta Work and Lostintranslation.
Welsh Grand National win
The Grand National has been the long-term plan for Native River ever since he won the Welsh equivalent of the race at Chepstow in 2016. He was the well-backed 11/4 favourite for the race over 3m5½f and justified going off at those odds with a 1¾-length victory.
Since then, Native River has been campaigned at Grade One level and so he has not returned to Wales for their National for another shot at their big race in late December. His stablemate Elegant Escape did follow in his footsteps in 2018.
Native River has only once featured over 4m+. He finished second in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016, 1¼-lengths behind Minella Rocco.
Tizzard bidding for Maiden National win
Tizzard, who has held a training licence since 1998, has won many of the leading races on the National Hunt calendar although he is still looking for his first Grand National win.
With Native River and Elegant Escape both expected to be part of the 40-runner field, it could be Tizzard’s best chance of claiming the most famous jumps race in the world.
*odds subject to change.