Native River out to apply gloss finish to outstanding season
By any measure a campaign that comprises wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh National and Denman Chase is an unmitigated triumph.
Yet Native River has a chance to apply a gloss finish when he lines up as one of the principals for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
One of a Colin Tizzard challenge, that at one time also included Thistlecrack as well as Cue Card, Native River is the only one of the trio yet to taste defeat this season.
His winning run began at last year's Grand National meeting after he finished second in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, so of all the contenders the trip will hold no terrors for a horse who has risen to every challenge put in front of him this season.
Tizzard said: "Native River ran here last year in the four-miler, staying on and beaten only a length. He's an absolute stayer. Last time at Newbury, I know it was only a three-horse race, but it looked as though we could ride him really prominent but not go on six out. He has a bit of boot as well. He's a very good contender for a Gold Cup."
Owners Garth and Ann Broom having been living the dream with Native River. They admit to nerves but say Native River owes them nothing.
"Colin says he seems to be in very good form," said Garth Broom. "Joe [Tizzard] rode him a couple of days ago and they're very happy with him. It's all systems go.
"I'm not concerned it hasn't rained. I think he has the action of a good-ground horse who is just as effective on any ground. He doesn't owe us anything. As long as he finishes okay there's always another day.
"He has done more than we ever hoped he could. Winning one of the races he has is a successful season. To win three is fantastic. We're very proud of what he's done."
Pros Guaranteed stayer who has not lost a race since last year's festival
Cons Hennessy form not worked out and arguably beat little in the Denman