NATIVE RIVER, the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, is on target to contest the Betfair Denman Chase in which he will be trying to win the race for the third year running at Newbury on Saturday. Trainer Colin Tizzard is keen to follow the same route he took with his stable star a year ago when Native River, already the only horse to win the Grade 2 chase twice, became the fourth horse to win the Denman Chase and Gold Cup in the same year.
Native River was one of ten entries made for the 3m chase in which a clash with the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan des Obeaux, the winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day in which Native River was third, and Coneygree, winner of the Denman Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, could be on the cards.
The Betfair Denman Chase is one of the feature races of Betfair Super Saturday, an afternoon of top class racing which also includes the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase and £155,000 Betfair Hurdle, the richest handicap hurdle run in Britain for which there were 23 confirmations. They are all key trials for the Cheltenham Festival and will help with Cheltenham predictions for punters looking for winners at the four-day extravaganza.
Native River has run twice since winning the Gold Cup last March, finishing second in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and third in the 32Red King George VI Chase in which he was beaten 13 ½ lengths by Clan des Obeaux.
His trainer expects him to be more at home at Newbury where he is unbeaten in four runs over fences. His only defeat at the track was in the 2014 Challow Hurdle.
Tizzard said: “At Kempton he jumped out to the left. That’s twice he has been there, and he hasn’t been at ease. He stayed on well at Kempton, that’s all we can take out of the race. I think he is almost unbeaten at Newbury, so this was always going to be our prep race. I think the King George winner is going there as well. But this is our prep race for the Gold Cup.”
“I think the course at Newbury will suit him better. He is a strong stayer and he has very good form round Newbury. We will see what the entries are like. If they have the forecast rain and it’s good to soft, he’ll be there.”
Tizzard confirmed he will also use the meeting to give Fox Norton his second start of the season in the Betfair Exchange Chase, which has been reopened. He reappeared at Ascot last month where he finished second to Altior in the Clarence House Chase.
“I don’t know what is going to take him on but he had a nice introduction at Ascot the other day and it was good to get him back on the racecourse,” said the trainer. “He hadn’t run since the 2017 King George.”
The Willie Mullins-trained Saglawy is the new top weight for the Betfair Hurdle with the weights rising by 3lb after Monday’s five-day acceptance stage for the handicap. The sponsor’s betting market continues to be dominated by Al Dancer, the 4-1 favourite, and Getaway Trump, who is 9-2.
Betfair Spokesman, Barry Orr, said: ‘’The main protagonists have stood their ground and with just half a point separating Al Dancer and Getaway Trump they look likely to duke it out for favouritism at the top of the market.
‘’We are now paying five places to ante-post punters and as you would expect seeing plenty of money for some bigger priced runners, most notably Countister, who is 10-1 from 16-1 and the Gordon Elliott trained High Expectations at 25-1.”