Chepstow: Native River slams rivals to land Welsh National

Native River:had his rivals strung out at Chepstow

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( Native River slams rivals to land Welsh National
By Mark Scully 2:55PM 27 DEC 2016

Report: Chepstow, Tuesday

Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) | 3m5f110y | 4yo+

NATIVE RIVER put up one of the great performances in the history of this race as he followed up his Hennessy Gold Cup win with a dominant display.

Advertising his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials in emphatic style, Richard Johnson took Native River to the front with a circuit to travel and was aggresive all the way to record a thrilling win.

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The 11-4 favourite had the field strung out as he cleared the final few obstacles and although Raz De Maree closed the gap late on, the hard work was already done.

Johnson is now in no doubt that Native River has the class to contest the Gold Cup in March and said: "He is such a hardy horse as the more you ask of him, the more he gives and after what he has just done he has to be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender now.

"I was never really that happy with him on the first circuit but as soon as I said 'come on boy' he picked up and had everything beaten. He has to be pretty special to carry that sort of weight and win the way he did."

Trainer Colin Tizzard added: "Between the fourth and third last he must have made up eight lengths. I wondered if he would hold on but looking back at the rest nothing else was going with him.

"It's a fantastic time for us. Things couldn't be better. Horses like this are hard to find and you've just got to enjoy the moment. It's addictive."

Tizzard also suggested Cue Card could now head down the Ryanair Chase route to avoid his stablemates at Cheltenham.

"We'll look at the Cotswold or the Denman Chase and then the Gold Cup for Native River," said Tizzard. "I might send Cue Card to the Ascot Chase and the Ryanair Chase because I don't really want Native River, Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the same race."

Jockey Ger Fox, who had to make do with second aboard Raz De Maree, also praised the winner and is eyeing a shot at the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in the spring.

"We have bumped into a really good horse as I was staying on all the time but was never going to get him," said Fox. "We are pleased with the run and hopefully he will now get into the Grand National at Aintree."

Betfair trimmed Native River, a Colin Tizzard-trained stablemate of the Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack, from 16-1 into 8-1 for the Cheltenham Festival showpiece.

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