JOE TIZZARD hopes Native River can confirm the Cheltenham Gold Cup form when he renews rivalry with Might Bite in today’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Eight months after a race to remember, the unseasonably dry weather is expected by many to favour the Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite at the Merseyside track.
However, Tizzard – assistant to his father Colin – believes Native River’s superiority can prevail under champion jockey Richard Johnson.
He said: “It has always been the plan to go straight to Haydock. He has been back in since the middle of July and hasn’t missed a day, touch wood.
“We could have run him again after the Gold Cup as he came out of it well, but he jarred himself the season before – which was well publicised – and we didn’t want to take any risks as we think he is capable of going back there again. We turned him out, he has had a proper preparation for this season and we can’t wait to run him.”
The Tizzards, who have enjoyed previous Betfair Chase success thanks to the exploits of the now retired Cue Card, have a strong second string to their bow in the form of Thistlecrack.
The 10-year-old looked well placed to dominate the division after winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton two years ago, but well-publicised injury problems have restricted him to just three subsequent starts.
He has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fourth behind Might Bite when defending his King George crown last Christmas, but connections hope Tom Scudamore’s mount can prove he is no back number.
Tizzard said: “He was going to run in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, but as the ground went against us we couldn’t do that.
“We were always fighting a battle with him last season physically. We thought he ran a good race in the King George, but he was sore coming out of it and he had a stress fracture in his hind leg.
“The question with him is are we going to get him back to his old self? At home we think we’ve got him back virtually there – it’s whether or not he can do it on the course. Fingers crossed he will.”