GBI RACING

Colin Tizzard hoping Native River can sparkle in Gold Cup quest

Native River with Colin Tizzard

Colin Tizzard hopes the patient approach he has adopted with Native River this term will pay dividends in Friday's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Having gone close last year when third to Sizing John after a season which saw him win the Hennessy, Welsh National and Denman Chase, Tizzard felt those exertions probably took their toll in the final 100 yards.

Tizzard said: "We wondered last season if by going for the Hennessy, then going on to the Welsh National and then the Denman Chase that maybe we had taken the edge off him so he wasn't approaching the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the best of form. He ran well to finish third."

The trainer went on:"We had Native River ready for Newbury - he had been to Larkhill three times as we didn't want him to get tired, or injured and we wanted him to do himself justice so he was ready for that.

"He is bound to improve for that run, every horse does."

Jessica Harrington won the blue riband with her first runner in the race last year, but unfortunately Sizing John was ruled out of his defence by injury last week.

However, the handler is still strongly represented by Irish National winner Our Duke.

"He seems to be in great form. We haven't had to do too much with him because the Red Mills Chase wasn't that long ago," Harrington said.

"He needed that race as he'd made a bad mistake in the Irish Gold Cup and ended up finishing only fourth.The owners said last season we'd miss Cheltenham and go for the Gold Cup this year. It was their decision."

Willie Mullins fields four in his attempt to win the race for the first time. Djakadam has been placed three times previously and Killultagh Vic is another strong contender.Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall and Bachasson complete his team.

Mullins said of Killultagh Vic, who looked likely to go very close in the Irish Gold Cup but for falling at the last: " He beat Thistlecrack in a Grade One hurdle so stamina is not on my mind.

"We were worried, it was a heavy fall but he's schooled well since. When I saw the reverse angle, it looked like he was trying to be too careful and just unbalanced.

"I'm hopeful that he'll have learned and will be all right on the day."

Total Recall won over hurdles at the Dublin Racing Festival.

"Last time he jumped one or two hurdles too well and got a bit free, but he was just going his own pace," said Mullins.

"We decided on Cheltenham because the Bobbyjo was coming too soon after the hurdle race, which wouldn't have been the normal route to take for a National horse. After that the Gold Cup was the only other option."

Noel Meade's Road To Respect has made giant strides since winning a handicap at this meeting last year and has been kept fresh since winning a Grade One at Leopardstown at Christmas.

"Nobody could paint a horse that could win a Gold Cup, but anybody who looks at this lad would like him," said Meade.

"He is everything you want. He has the most beautiful head, shoulders and depth and strength everywhere. He's the most beautiful horse you could wish to see, so if ever you could paint a Gold Cup winner, you would say this could be one."

The fact Edwulf is even lining up for Joseph O'Brien is a tribute to the Cheltenham vets who treated him after a major scare at the meeting last year. He recuperated well enough to win the Irish Gold Cup last time out to book his place.

"After what happened in Cheltenham, JP (McManus, owner) and Frank (Berry, racing manager) said we could take our time with him and if he never ran again, that was fine and if he did, then great," said O'Brien.

"He was absolutely flying going into the Irish Gold Cup. He was 100-1 the day before and went off 33s.We've been happy with him since and hopefully he goes there with a good each-way chance."

Saphir Du Rheu was fifth last year for Paul Nicholls and behind Native River on his comeback at Newbury.

"He has improved massively from his first run at Newbury. I couldn't do any more than I did with him before that, but he has got it all to do," said Nicholls.

Definitly Red is the big hope of the north for Brian Ellison after a convincing win in the Cotswold Chase.

"He's in rude health and I'm really happy with him," said Ellison.

"Danny (Cook) always felt he was going to win the Cotswold Chase.If Danny can get him into a good rhythm, he'll run his race. Obviously it's going to be competitive. To have a horse like him going for the Gold Cup is every trainer's dream."

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