Native River under Jonjo O'Neill Jr
Native River under Jonjo O'Neill Jr

Native River sails to victory in Denman Chase

Native River looked in good shape ahead of his attempt to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he won the Betfair Denman Chase for a third time at Newbury on Saturday.

Jonjo O'Neill Jr deputised in the saddle for the injured Richard Johnson, but when Native River turns up at Newbury he invariably wins and the result was the same once again.

Sent to the front from the outset, Native River got into a good rhythm and his jumping was very solid in the main.

Might Bite was below his best once again and it was left to the 149-rated Secret Investor to lay down the final challenge after the last.

Native River was in full control, though, justifying his 2-5 starting price in good fashion.

Sky Bet went 10-1 from 12s for the Gold Cup (Non Runner No Bet).

Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "Native River is clearly not an easy horse to pass but would need to improve again to win another Gold Cup. However, he jumps and stays very well, so given a real test he could easily be in the mix."

Trainer Colin Tizzard said: "They left him alone today and no one decided to come with us. It was a lovely prep race for the Gold Cup. Jonjo felt as if he hadn't really got serious with him. He gave him a couple of little flicks and he was away and that is him all over. He is hardly blowing there.

"It is quite interesting, when they jumped the cross fence twice the young man thought they were going long and the old man said, 'not yet'. That cross fence can undo a lot of horses, but he is neat and handy.

"When he came here two years ago it was his first run (of the season) and we wanted to replicate that a bit. You always wonder if you have done enough on the gallops and we haven't taken him away at all.

"We just try and trust ourselves a bit."

The trainer added of O'Neill junior: "He is a good young rider and mentally he is a strong young man. He has been put under the microscope a fair bit this week - everyone is hanging on his every word, and he handles it very well.

"We like him, as he has grown up with the ups and downs of racing."

Asked about a potential Grand National bid after the Gold Cup, Tizzard said: "Traditionally the Grand National has been quite a gruelling race, but not so anymore. It is a lovely big handicap with lovely modified fences. I think he should go there, but I've got a little bit of work to do.

"I don't think there is much between him and Lostintranslation. He (Lostintranslation) has probably got a bit more pace, as you saw him beat Defi Du Seuil last season and shake him up a few times.

"I'm sure whoever rides Native River (in the Gold Cup) will be pushing on from a long way out to make it a test.

"He has won around Aintree in the Bowl and he has won around here. I think he is fine on good ground. If I had my choice of ground for him (at Cheltenham) I'd make it heavy ground, as that is what he won the Gold Cup on.

"He will be going there whatever the ground is, as long as everything is fine. It looks a pretty open race."

O'Neill said: "There's not many horses like him in the country and I'm very lucky to be asked to ride him. Dicky (Johnson) rang this morning and told me exactly what he was like. I'm very grateful.

"The run will have really sharpened him up. He was entitled to win and couldn't have done it any better."

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL COUNTDOWN: Don't miss out on the latest Cheltenham Festival build-up. We'll have all the best content from some of the leading stables in Britain and Ireland, plus countdown videos, podcasts and the very best analysis from our team of experts.

Related horse racing links

Like what you've read?

Next Off

Sporting Life
My Stable
Follow and track your favourite Horses, Jockeys and Trainers. Never miss a race with automated alerts.
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Click HERE for more information

Most Followed