The Gold Cup trials have ticked by without a serious contender emerging to challenge Might Bite, but Native River will get the chance to throw his cap into the ring in the Denman Chase on Saturday.
Might Bite and Sizing John are the front two in the market for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month, but neither has been seen since Christmas. While Might Bite will head to Cheltenham on the back of a win in the King George VI Chase, Jessica Harrington has had to build Sizing John back up following his listless effort in defeat at Leopardstown.
In the past couple of weeks horses have attempted to crash the party, but no major star has emerged. The Irish Gold Cup on Sunday was won by 33/1 shot Edwulf, as Our Duke was beaten into fourth after a patchy round of jumping and Killultagh Vic fell when leading at the last.
As things stand, the Gold Cup looks set to be a battle between last year’s victor Sizing John and the rising star of the chasing scene, Might Bite.
Trainer Colin Tizzard will hope to muscle in on the action with Native River, who will return to action for the first time since his gallant third behind Sizing John in last year’s Gold Cup.
Connections campaigned Native River aggressively last season, winning both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh National, with the Gold Cup something of an afterthought.
The Gold Cup has been the priority for this season and Native River is ready to blow away the cobwebs at Newbury on Saturday.
“He’s as ready as you can get him at home without having a race,” Native River’s owner Garth Broom, said, per the Racing Post. “All the reports are that Colin and his team are very happy with him.
“In the past he’s always wanted one race as a warm-up and this is what the idea is. If he got beat, as long as he ran a good race, it wouldn’t be a complete disaster. It’s the means to an end to get him to the Gold Cup.”
Native River will face a maximum of four rivals on Saturday – Cloudy Dream, Fountains Windfall, Saphir Du Rheu and Traffic Fluide – and his price, currently 8/1 with 188BET, is unlikely to shift much whatever the outcome.
But if he shows all his usual zest from the front, he will make a statement that he is ready to challenge Might Bite and Sizing John.