Tony Elves believes Native River is the one they all have to beat in Saturday's big race.
The fireworks really started for Colin Tizzard and his team when Gentleman Jon took the Badger Ales Handicap Chase on November 5 and the explosives from Venn Stable have continued unabated since with Viconte Du Noyer taking the Grade 3 BetVictor Chase at Cheltenham on the 12 and Cue Card lifting a third Betfair Chase at Haydock last weekend. Just for good measure Thistlecrack has chipped in with two exuberant chasing displays at Chepstow and Cheltenham to put himself firmly on the Gold Cup route.
It is sometimes easy to try and complicate matters when analysing a race but it is clear the Tizzard team are in the form of their lives at present and NATIVE RIVER has the perfect credentials to make it another big pay day Saturday in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury (3.10) today.
In this quarter, the Hennessy marks the start of the NH season proper and it is hallmark event that has bearing on some of the top future events. It is a race that often falls to a progressive second season chaser who could well end up chasing Gold at Cheltenham in March and in Native River we have a candidate who could still have further improvement in him as he only turns six at the end of the year.
Native River needed the run first time out last season before dishing out a 16 length drubbing to Abracadbra Sivola over three miles at Exeter in November and showed his liking for this course when giving 7lb and a three and three quarter beating to Un Temps Pour Tout in the Grade 2 Worcester Novices Chase over two miles and seven and a half furlongs at Hennessy meeting a year ago.
Subsequent events make that look a stellar performance as Un Temps Pour Tout went onto beat the seasoned professionals Holywell and The Young Master in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and once again had a rear view of his old rival Native River in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, finishing 13 ¾ lengths fourth, although admittedly he did finish lame. If anything, Native River has returned even better than last season and he was beaten only two and three quarter lengths by Silsol in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby in October where Lil Rockerfell was half a length back in third and the last named made Yanworth (received 4lb) pull out all the stops in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot next time out.
Native River ran very respectably to finish placed in three top events between his Newbury and Aintree successes but could, conceivably, be one of those who finds very best form in the Autumn and in the Spring and the selection has the added bonus of having Champion jockey Richard Johnson on board. In the circumstances he cannot go unbacked and looks worth a 2pt wager.