11-year-old Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Native River, returned to form with success in the rescheduled Virgin bet Cotswold Chase.
The race was originally scheduled to be run at Cheltenham Racecourse’s Trials Day meeting – but due to the adverse weather, was moved to Sandown Park on Saturday.
The Colin Tizzard-trained superstar missed the 2020 renewal of National Hunt’s showpiece race due to injury, before returning to action in The Many Clouds Chase in December.
Undoubtedly, his comeback run at Aintree in December was needed, but his 9 1/2-length victory on Saturday – on heavy ground – was as impressive as any and handed jockey Richard Johnson a treble on the day.
In his usual gamely fashion, Native River set a relentless gallop in his preferred testing conditions, taking the railway fences superbly in another assured round of jumping, running his rivals into the unforgiving turf.
His 14th career success was a much-welcomed one for the Tizzard team, who have had a poor season by their standards, putting his name back into the hat for Gold Cup glory once again.
After the race, Johnson gave his verdict:
“He jumped the railway fences really well and again got into a nice rhythm – and we know he stays really well and he handles the conditions. It was a fantastic effort.”
Assistant trainer, Joe Tizzard, praised the yard star and confirmed his next target will come at Cheltenham:
“He’s done nothing wrong in the last five years – he just keeps producing.
“He’s as tough as they come and he’s never lost his enthusiasm.
“He had really come to himself the last couple of weeks – and as he gets older, he has perhaps lost half a gear, so the ground probably helps him.
“He is a lovely chap in the stable, and The Gold Cup has always been the plan. This was the prep run for it.”
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16/1 (Bet365) is the best price currently and looks a very enticing each-way prospect for a horse who has shown so much consistency. The more rain in Cheltenham ahead of March 19, the better his chances!