Native River ruled out of National

High-class stayer Native River, seen by many as one of the biggest dangers to hattrick-seeking Tiger Roll in the 2020 Randox Health Grand National, has sustained a training setback and will miss the big race. He won’t be seen again until next season.

The shock news also means the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero will not be able to attempt to regain the title he won in memorable fashion when seeing off arch-rival Might Bite in a tremendous renewal of the blue riband contest nearly two years ago. Last year, the Colin Tizzard-trained star finished fourth in the Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo.

Trainer’s son passed on the bad news

News of the setback was revealed on Wednesday in a statement by Tizzard’s son and assistant trainer, Joe: “Unfortunately we have had to scratch Native River from the Gold Cup this morning. It’s really disappointing but he’s just had a little tear in the suspensory tendon at the back of his knee which is going to put him out for the rest of the season.”

“He was a bit sore yesterday and again this morning so we went in and scanned it, and [it’s] just one of those injuries that happen. He’ll be back next season for sure,” added Tizzard. “We need to focus on getting him right. It’s not a major injury and on a normal basis he’ll be fine by Christmas next year.”

Popular stayer had been Grand National second-favourite

Native River had been a top-priced 14/1 second-favourite for the Grand National and as short as 10/1 with some firms behind hot 6/*1 market leader Tiger Roll.

The chestnut gelding’s bold front-running style and fine record as a sound jumper had attracted many punters to support him after he was allotted a Grand National mark of 166, 2lb lower than his latest success which came when landing odds of 2/5 when comfortably beating Secret Investor at Newbury 12 days ago in the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase. He had previously cantered to a facile success in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase on the Mildmay course at Aintree in December.

The West Country-based star becomes the second Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to be ruled out of the 2020 Grand National following the news three weeks ago that the Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John, winner of the 2017 crown, had sustained an injury on the Curragh gallops and is also out for the rest of the campaign.

Will champion jockey have a mount in the big race?

Native River was expected to have been ridden by regular partner and British champion jockey Richard Johnson, who is expected to return to the fray in time for Cheltenham having broken his right arm in a fall at Exeter late last month.

Johnson will doubtless be on the lookout for a new mount, but with his guv’nor Philip Hobbs having only Steely Addition (125/1*) entered in the race – he was pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Haydock at the weekend – it’s anyone’s guess at present if the senior British jumps jockey who has yet to win the Aintree showpiece event in over two decades of trying, will face the starter for the £1million race.

Native River’s training setback is quite a blow too to Colin Tizzard who had been bullish about his star’s chance in the two big races this spring. The yard’s only other entry, Elegant Escape, winner of the 2018 Welsh National winner and a fine third in the prestigious Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November, was another to disappoint when pulled up in very deep ground at Haydock on Saturday having never gone with any real zest in the Grand National trial.

The eight-year-old Dubai Destination gelding was having his first start since a minor wind operation and on the evidence of his Haydock performance drifted out from 33/1 to 50/1 for the Aintree marathon.

Saint advances in Aintree market

Native River’s removal from the ante-post Grand National market has seen the Willie Mullins-trained Burrows Saint, winner of last season’s Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse and impressive when landing his only start this term in a Punchestown hurdle on New Year’s Eve, advance to a top priced 12/1* second-favourite despite not having jumped a fence in public this season.


*Odds subject to change.

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