One horse which should not be forgotten about though when it comes to the Blue Riband event of the Festival is Native River, who was successful in the 3m2f contest in 2018.
Native River returned to action last month in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree where he scored impressively by 33 lengths. He made the running in that race, and once Might Bite unseated his jockey at the fourth obstacle, he was always going to take some catching.
Surprisingly, Colin Tizzard’s runner did not feature in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. That said, Kempton is not a track which is suited to the horse. The 3m race, which is the highlight of the festive period, is preferred by speedier runners as it proved when Clan Des Obeaux won the contest for the second straight year.
Native River is likely to be seen next in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. He won that race in 2018 before his Cheltenham success. He only ran twice that season, and a light campaign looks to be on the cards once again.
Gold Cup Defence Was Respectable
Native River went into the Gold Cup last year looking to become the first horse to defend their crown since Best Mate managed that feat in 2004. Unlike 12 months earlier, where he was setting the tempo along with Might Bite, Tizzard’s runner was at the back end of the field in the opening half of the race.
The nine-year-old did hit the front at the 12th fence where his chances of success improved significantly. Unfortunately for his connections though, he was outpaced in the run-in and had to settle for fourth place in the race which was won by Al Boum Photo.
Third Appearance In The Gold Cup Likely In March
Another shot at the most prestigious contest in National Hunt racing can be expected in March. He was third in the race which was won by Sizing John in 2017; therefore, he has proved competitive in all three of his appearances so far.
The bookmakers make him a 20/1 shot this year, which looks great value, especially if you take up one of the 2020 Cheltenham betting offers such as a risk-free bet of up to £10. This will give you a free shot on the former winner as he looks to regain his crown.
Season Could End With Grand National Shot
The Grand National was discussed as a possibility for Native River last season, and his connections have always seen him as a future contender for the Aintree race. They chose to give their horse a break after Cheltenham last year; however, we could see him line up on Merseyside this April.
Native River is 20/1 for the 2020 Grand National. He won the Welsh version of the contest in 2016, so he would surely be a strong contender for the 4m2f race later this year.