'I'm not afraid of Might Bite' ? Joe Tizzard bullish about Native River return
The Tizzard team insist they are not afraid about taking on Might Bite again as they prepare Native River for a Gold Cup rematch in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The pair fought out a gruelling battle in the festival's showpiece event, in which Native River dug deep to see off the Nicky Henderson-trained star. Now they are set to line up for only their second clash, with all roads leading back to Cheltenham.
Native River has not raced since that brave victory and the sponsors make Might Bite an even-money chance to reverse the Gold Cup placings, with the Tizzard-trained eight-year-old priced at 11-4.
Joe Tizzard, son and assistant trainer to Colin, said: "It looks a cracking race to start the season off and I hope they all turn up. I'm not afraid of Might Bite, that's for sure.
"It was a hell of a duel in the Gold Cup and it was a cracking race to watch. It was even better when Might Bite boosted the form at Aintree. These two taking each other on is great for racing. We have massive respect for him but we aren't hiding away.
"Might Bite is favourite because they think the track will suit him better and that Native River is ground dependent but I don't think that's true."
Colin Tizzard has enjoyed three successes in the Betfair Chase, all with his stable's now-retired hero Cue Card, who was also second in the Grade 1 event a year ago.
Joe Tizzard, who rode Cue Card to the first of his hat-trick in the race in 2013, said: "Native River schooled over fences on Sunday and jumped beautifully.
"He has been given this brand as a slogger but he really is as tough as they come and has a lot of class too. He is just what you need for these races.
"This has always been the plan for him, he has been back since July and hasn't missed a day. He is a very sound horse, has had a great preparation and we can't wait to run him."
Native River made only one other appearance before his Cheltenham Festival success this year, winning the Denman Chase at Newbury, but connections are plotting a bid for the Jockey Club's £1 million bonus if a horse can win Saturday's feature, the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and then the Gold Cup.
He added: "It's a million pound bonus and that prize shows how difficult it will be but it is an incentive.
"You'd say Kempton doesn't suit Native River but he was third in the Kauto Star Chase in 2015, it's a track you need to stay on. They race hard from a long way out, which would suit him because he has a very high cruising speed and he can keep it going for a long time. Hopefully that will play into his hands.
"We will be giving it a go, but will have to see what happens after Saturday."
Might Bite ready to roll
Confidence is also high in the Nicky Henderson camp, with last season's King George and Betway Bowl hero Might Bite described as in 'great shape' for the Betfair Chase.
Henderson said: "We're ready to run him now and everything is great. We schooled him this morning and he looks very good. It will be great to see him back."
Good to soft ground predicted
Haydock clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright was on Monday expecting good to soft conditions for Saturday's card. Rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday before a dry spell up to the weekend.
He said: "It is currently good to soft, good in places. There are little bits of rain forecast for the weekend, so with that being said I think the going at the weekend will be very similar to what it is now."
The Tizzard team will also be represented by Thistlecrack, while last year's winner Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux, Politologue, Shattered Love, Don Poli and Outlander are also among the nine possible runners for the Grade 1 contest.
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