Following a Christmas period which saw a new Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite emerge and others fall by the wayside, Colin Tizzard’s Native River, third in the Blue Riband event last year, has somewhat gone under the radar.
The classy eight-year-old son of Indian River established himself as a live Gold Cup contender with a stellar season which included a victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy) and a superb weight-carrying performance in the Welsh National.
Victory in the Denman Chase was followed by an excellent two and three-quarter length third in the Gold Cup behind Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John.
With Tizzard’s other two Gold Cup contenders, Cue Card and Thistlecrack, both having points to prove after solid but unspectacular performances in the Betfair Chase and King George respectively, Native River’s absence has inextricably led to him being supported in the market due to the uncertainty surrounding so many Gold Cup runners following the festive period and races including the King George and Christmas Chase which had a dramatic effect on the Gold Cup market.
Tizzard is hoping to get Native River fit and back for a run in the Denman Chase, a race he won last year with victory over Le Mercurey and Bristol De Mai but the Sherborne handler is keen for better ground with a racecourse gallop planned.
He’s been galloping for over two months. He’s fine. We’ll probably still wait for the Denman and give him a racecourse gallop before then, when it dries up a bit. There are not that many conditions races coming up before then. We did think about a hurdle race, but we’ll wait for the Denman.