Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Native River a doubt for Aintree showpiece, says owner Garth Broom

Native River clears the water jump at Newbury under Jonjo O'Neill junior.
Native River clears the water jump at Newbury under Jonjo O'Neill junior.
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OWNER Garth Broom has urged punters to hold their Randox Health Grand National bets on Native River – with the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup still this season’s main aim.

READ MORE - Native River lays down marker

Native River - pictured winning at Newbury under Jonjo O'Neill - is unlikely to line up in the Grand National, says owner Garth Broom.

Native River - pictured winning at Newbury under Jonjo O'Neill - is unlikely to line up in the Grand National, says owner Garth Broom.

While Broom has not ruled out a trip to Liverpool next year, the short gap between Cheltenham and Aintree this time round is likely to see the 10-year-old miss the famous race.

Broom feels the Colin Tizzard-trained chaser – given 11st 6lbs in the National – has one last chance of reclaiming the blue riband event he won in 2018, and that is next month after his comfortable victory at Newbury on Saturday when Jonjo O’Neill deputisted for broken arm victim Richard Johnson in the Denman Chase.

“It will be interesting to see what weight he gets, but his main aim this year is the Gold Cup,” said Broom.

“If he has a hard race it’s only three weeks to the National – so I wouldn’t advise anyone to put any money on him, because if he runs his race I don’t know if he’d have enough recovery time. He goes well fresh.

Native FRiver clears the last in the Denman Chase under Jonjo O'Neill junior.

Native FRiver clears the last in the Denman Chase under Jonjo O'Neill junior.

“Maybe next season it could be more of a target – when he’ll be 11 and the Gold Cup looks a little unrealistic – but if something happened and he couldn’t run in the Gold Cup then we’d still have another option.

“The thing is I think the horse is brave enough for the National – but I don’t know if the owners are! We get so uptight, even on Saturday. We love him so much.

“With your head, he looks ideal for the National. But the problem is the owners, not the horse – we’ve got so attached to him. If anything happened we’d never forgive ourselves.

“If he’s fit and well next season it’s more likely. This season it’s more on stand-by. If he runs his race in the Gold Cup I couldn’t see him running, but we’re not ruling it completely out at this stage. He wins his races by making all – but can you make all over four and a quarter miles? That’s the million-dollar question, I suppose.”

Reflecting on Saturday’s victory, Broom said: “It was the perfect result. He’s got a real following now – he’s spent time as a forgotten horse, but I think he’s been so consistent for so long he’s earned his place now.

“He’s still never been out of the first four over fences. Possibly winning the Gold Cup left its mark on him last season – (that race) seems to have done so to Might Bite.

“He’s the horse of a lifetime, we realise that. If he runs to the form he’s shown this season he should be bang there again in the Gold Cup. Obviously some younger ones are coming through – they always are but he’ll make the others know they’ve had a race, that is almost certain.

“He doesn’t need it heavy in the Gold Cup. He actually handles good ground really well – it’s just the others don’t handle heavy as well as he did.

“He also had a new jockey on Saturday, and I thought young Jonjo (O’Neill) did exceptionally well on him.”