The race on November 24 is likely to see Native River renew his rivalry with Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite who was runner-up in the Gold Cup after a protracted battle. Fourteen horses have been declared for the first Grade One race of the National Hunt season with £1m on offer to the Haydock victor if they also go on to win Kempton’s King George Chase and the Gold Cup – a feat previously achieved by the legendary Kauto Star.
Tizzard, assistant to his father Colin, revealed: “Native River is in really good form.
“The plan is to run to Haydock in the Betfair Chase and we are really pleased with him.
“He has come back into the yard and he actually looks bigger and stronger than he has ever looked before. We will run him slightly more this year as injury held us up until the second half of the season with him last time so we could only really focus on the Gold Cup.
“He is not ground dependent and, a bit like a lot of the top-class horses, he can handle any ground. If he won the Betfair Chase at Haydock, there is the £1m bonus and that might tempt us to run him in the King George at Kempton. A spring campaign would be followed with another tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup as his target.”
Tizzard believes Native River, who only ran twice last season, is continuing to improve – high praise for a horse who was runner-up in Wetherby’s West Yorkshire Hurdle two years ago before excelling over larger obstacles with wins in Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National.
“It was amazing to win the Gold Cup and we are going to try and win another one!” he added.
“This season, we can target four or five races, including maybe Aintree or Punchestown if he came out of Cheltenham well.
“Every time we have run him, he has improved and become a better horse – we don’t think he’s stopped improving. We think there is still more to come, which is exciting.”
Both Native River and Might Bite feature amongst 33 entries for the aforementioned King George Chase on Boxing Day.
They include the injury-sidelined Waiting Patiently for Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson.
Meanwhile Jefferson had a pleasing winner at Musselburgh yesterday when novice hurdler Return Ticket prevailed under Middleham rider Henry Brooke.
n Kevin Ryan is excited to see what East can achieve next season following her fine effort in defeat at the Breeders’ Cup in America.
The daughter of Frankel fully vindicated the Hambleton trainer’s decision to send the two-year-old filly to Churchill Downs in Kentucky by finishing second under jockey Jamie Spencer to runaway winner Newspaperofrecord in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
It was a huge show of faith by Ryan who was having his first-ever runner at American racing’s showpiece meeting.
And he will now train East, who won her first two races, for next May’s 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
“She ran a great race. She had a terrible draw (stall 14) to contend with and the winner was exceptional, but she ran very well,” he said.
“We knew she was a good filly going there and she did us proud. We’re delighted with her.”