Don’t write off Native River for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

After hammering Black Corton by more than thirty lengths at Aintree during early December, Native River completed his preparations for the forthcoming Cheltenham Gold Cup by winning the Newbury Denman Chase on Saturday. The winning margin was far less convincing on this occasion and raises the questions as to whether the Colin Tizzard gelding retains the ability to win another Gold Cup following his victory in March 2018.

Native River could only beat Secret Investor by less than three lengths on Saturday with the runner-up winning just two of seven previous races over fences and none at graded level. Yet it could be argued that the winner on Saturday was racing in conditions which were far from ideal.

When the 10-year-old gelding enjoyed his finest hour to date when winning the 2018 Gold Cup, underfoot conditions were testing and he was able to dictate a relentless pace throughout the event.

In last season’s renewal, he missed the break at the start and could never quite impose himself on the remainder in the much drier ground. He tried to lead all of the way but eventually finished a gallant fourth and staying on at the finish.

On Saturday, Native River faced a flat three miles on good ground and once again could never really break his rivals. Should underfoot conditions be similar to 2018 at Cheltenham, the Tizzard horse will be much more comfortable on the challenging track with undulations and a relentless uphill finish. He could be difficult to beat given such a scenario as an abundance of stamina is another of his key characteristics.

If Spring ground materialises at Prestbury Park as has often been the case, the 14/1 currently offered for Native River could still be decent each-way value.

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