Joe Tizzard is confident that the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River is still a force to be reckoned with, as he bids to build on last month’s success in the rearranged Grade Two Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase at Sandown Park by winning the Blue Riband race for a second time on Friday, 19th March.
The 11 year old missed last year’s renewal through injury but he has a fine record in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, placing in the first four on each of his three runs in the race to date.
And after returning to winning ways in fine style last month in the rearranged Grade Two, Tizzard feels that there’s no reason why Native River won’t be on the premises once again.
He said: “He’s been absolutely bomb proof for a couple of years, and has probably gone under the radar a little bit. He did nothing wrong last year and was two from two before just slightly tweaking a tendon in the Denman Chase, and then he came back and ran a blinder in the Many Clouds (at Aintree in December).
“The Cotswold being at Sandown really suited him and ticked all of his boxes, and he’s the highest rated chaser in England at the moment and he deserves it. In twenty runs? over fences his worst placing is fourth, which was in a Gold Cup, so that just shows you how good a horse he is.
“I think nowadays he would need a bit of soft ground just because anything else would be perhaps too quick for him and with the soft ground he can just maintain that gallop. I think that the horse is performing every bit as well as when he won a Gold Cup, I just think he’s a bit more ground dependant at this stage.
“The interesting thing about him is he’s not slow, he can maintain that gallop for three and a quarter miles. He’s just a warrior and if he’s still close enough at the bottom of the hill, he’ll be doing his best work up the hill. If he just gets his ground a little bit to help that, it slows the rest down.
“Native River will run his race, that’s the thing. He doesn’t run a bad race so he will go there and perform. He’s a pretty straightforward horse to train in that sense in that he’s very tough and he doesn’t need to do anything special to keep him right, he just loves his day-to-day routine and looks particularly well.”
Tizzard will also send last year’s Gold Cup third Lostintranslation, who he feels has every chance of outperforming his current odds of 33-1 for the Grade One contest.
The nine year old has disappointed on each of his three starts so far this campaign, coming home a distant fifth in last month’s Grade Two Denman Chase at Newbury in the latest of those outings, but Tizzard feels that he’s a horse that is still working his way back to full fitness.
He said: “It hasn’t been straightforward to be honest since the Betfair Chase last year. He disappointed in the King George and then bounced back to a fantastic run in the Gold Cup last year and then this year just hasn’t quite happened for no particular reason.
“Looking at the Denman last weekend, I actually think that was purely down to fitness. He blew very hard, and he’s a big gross horse that hasn’t had a race properly since the Gold Cup last year.
“He went to Haydock Park and hated the ground, , and then he bled after a couple of miles in the King George, so we were very keen to get a run into him and I think the run has sharpened him up a treat.
“We haven’t missed a beat coming out of it and he’s having a hard couple of weeks now just to make sure he’s fully fit.”
Tizzard added that unlike with Native River, the drying spring ground should play into the hands of Lostintranslation, who was an excellent winner of the 2019 Grade One Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Randox Grand National Festival.
And he certainly feels that dryer conditions could see him outrun his odds on the day. He said: “He won’t mind the ground drying out. He’s the opposite of Native River and likes a bit of good ground. I think he’s a horse who goes well in the spring and I think he’s certainly going in the right direction.
“Last year we were looking forward to going to Aintree and Punchestown and unfortunately we couldn’t, so this year is the same.
“The reason he’s that price is because of this year’s performances. He wasn’t that price after being beaten two lengths in it last year, so he could absolutely outrun his odds.”