All roads lead to the Gold Cup as Native River rolls back the years in Cotswold Chase

Sat 6 Feb 2021

By Graham Clark of The Jockey Club

Enjoy a full replay of the Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase

Native River rolled back the years to enhance his claims of a second Cheltenham Gold Cup success as he gave trainer Colin Tizzard a much needed boost in the re-arranged Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase.

The 2018 Gold Cup hero demonstrated he still has plenty of life left in him at the age of 11 after to win the Grade Two in testing conditions. The race - re-arranged from Cheltenham last Saturday – was the 14th success of his glittering career.

Racing front rank with Yala Enki from the outset of the three mile prize, the 13-2 chance forged into a lead he would not surrender, exiting the back straight for the final time under regular rider Richard Johnson.

Although Bristol De Mai moved off in pursuit of the Garth and Anne Broom-owned gelding, approaching the final two fences victory there was only ever one winner, with Native River finding plenty for pressure before going on to score by nine and a half lengths.

Joe Tizzard, son and assistant trainer, said: “He is as tough as they come and never one day has he lost his enthusiasm. I remember one day when we booked Dicky for his novice chase at Aintree and we were at Ascot and we thought those two were made for each other and four years later here we are.

“They just suit each other. The last couple of weeks at home he had just come to himself and as he has got a bit older he has perhaps lost half a gear. This ground just helps him as he has won a Welsh National and we know he stays particularly strongly. When he gets his conditions he takes a lot of pegging back.

“This is a big race and he is our main flagbearer that is left. He has done nothing wrong in the past five years he just keeps producing and he is a good boy to have about.

“People started questioning if he can go right-handed but if anything this place is made for him, seven fences down the back, and he winged all the Railway Fences and it’s a really stiff finish so it’s made for him.”

Joe Tizzard pays tribute to Native River

Native River was cut from 33-1 into 16-1 for the Gold Cup with today’s sponsor Virgin Bet, a race he will be making his fourth appearance in.

Joe Tizzard added: “It’s always been the plan (the Gold Cup). This was his prep for it so I’m just really glad they re-organised this and he will now have another crack at the Gold Cup.

“Not in the last few months have I enjoyed a race more than that. He was good to watch today. He was a handful to saddle today which is kind of unlike him but he was right on his game.

“He bounced back from it (Gold Cup win) as he was fourth the year after then he was two from two last season but got jarred up so he missed his chance last season.

“There are not many tougher than this horse. All these horses that get to the top end need to be tough, whether they look like it or not they need to be. He has got a cruising speed and he can maintain it for perhaps that extra half mile when other horses can’t. I wouldn’t mind a stable full of him.”

Daryl Jacob, rider of Bristol De Mai, feels that the multiple Grade One winning 10 year old would be better suited going straight to the Randox Grand National at Aintree on April 10th than lining up in the Gold Cup.

He said: “He has run an absolute blinder. Obviously the Tizzards’ horses are back in a bit of form and Native River on his day is a very good horse that is a dour stayer and all credit to him. I’m pleased with my lad and he has run his heart out. I think we will skip the Gold Cup and go for the Grand National. He went down fighting today and has had a nice blow.”

All roads lead back to the Gold Cup for last season’s runner-up Santini, who finished back in third having claimed the race 12 months, according to his trainer Nicky Henderson.

He said: “I’m happy enough we got the run under his belt under what is a very long way from his ideal conditions but that is what you are having to do at the moment.

“I was keen to get the run in. We ummed and ahhed all week, but we ummed and ahhed before Cheltenham whether to run on the day when it was off.

“If you get out you are going to run in unsuitable conditions and you are going to get harder races than you would have liked. Therefore the more time you give yourself between now and then (the Cheltenham Festival) the better things will be and that horse will take anything.

“Aidan was able from the second last, as he wasn’t going to get to the front, or get caught from behind, to get ferociously hard on him. He made one mistake down the back when he didn’t come out of the ground. Now it’s over I’m pleased we did it.

“He will go straight there and he loves it there and that’s what he has been aimed at all season, the same as last season.”

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