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NATIVE RIVER ‘is a lot stronger this year’ trainer Colin Tizzard has said of the 2017 Hennessy Gold Gold Cup winner who bids to improve on last year’s third place in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Native River enjoyed a stellar campaign last season, defying a big weight to win the Hennessy at Newbury in November before landing the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow in December and the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury in February.
The eight-year-old finished two and three-quarter lengths behind last year’s Gold Cup winner Sizing John and returned last month with an emphatic 12-length success in the Denman Chase, to secure back to back victories in the Grade 2 contest.
Tizzard said: “We wondered last season if by going for the Hennessy, then going on to the Welsh National and then the Denman Chase that maybe we had taken the edge off him so he wasn’t approaching the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the best of form. He ran well to finish third.
“He’s a lot stronger this time around, he’s in great form and we had him ready from Christmas. The manner of how he won at Newbury was equally as good as he’s ever been. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the hardest race of the season, they go flat out. The big strong stayers usually win and horses like a Sizing John who can travel and have pace at the end also win, but usually the best horse wins the Gold Cup.
“We had Native River ready for Newbury – he had been to Larkhill three times as we didn’t want him to get tired, or injured and we wanted him to do himself justice so he was ready for that.
“He is bound to improve for that run, every horse does, and we’ll see if he has a nice clean run to Cheltenham and how much he has to improve to win the race, but he is absolutely lovely at home.”
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